From the 15th July until 28th August 2011, an exhibition consisting of reproduction posters entitled Spreading the Word: AIDS posters from Around the World, will be on display at the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery in Leicester. The Wellcome Library has worked closely alongside curator, Dr. Sarah Graham, from the University of Leicester to supply the posters for the exhibition. Out of 3000 posters held by the Wellcome Library, 23 posters from five different continents have been chosen to display the ways in which various organisations inform the public about HIV and AIDS.
The date of the exhibition is certainly significant, as July 2011 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the first reported cases of the disease.
The range of posters is particularly diverse. Many appeal to individuals, whilst others are directed at whole communities. For instance, the poster targeting Indian women shows a pledge for women to fight against AIDS. The traditional meaning of the bindi is transformed to act as a symbol of empowerment, mirroring the importance of the red ribbon with regard to AIDS awareness.
Similarly, the poster aimed at the Jewish community reiterates the idea that AIDS can affect all communities, showing the universality of the illness. The poster provides a message of support as opposed to a message of judgement and stigma.
Whilst I enjoyed viewing all the posters on display, I particularly liked the poster, ‘Be a good sport,’ from the Terrence Higgins Trust. This poster reflects the nature of the world-wide epidemic, represented by the 5 rings to show the 5 different continents, epitomising the message of the two aforementioned posters. The colour of the condoms on the white background stand out to present a powerful image which is underlined by the humorous quote of ‘be a good sport;’ a poster that could be aimed at anyone, symbolising that, like sport, AIDS can bring nations together.
The space chosen for the exhibition at the New Walk gallery could not be more perfect. Beautifully displayed, positioned near the entrance, the posters are unavoidable. Indeed, visitors will be unable to escape a confrontation with this world-wide illness, as the exhibition provides a thoroughly thought provoking visit to the gallery.
Spreading the Word: AIDS Posters from Around the World, New Walk Museum, 53 New Walk, Leicester LE1 7EA (Friday 15th July 2011 – Sunday 28th August 2011)
Author: Alice Calloway
– A woman with a red Bindi spot representing a pledge to fight AIDS; an advertisement by the Arcon, the Lions Club of Bombay Hilltop and the HIV/AIDS Information and Guidance Centre in Bombay (Wellcome Library no. 677265i)
– The star of David incorporating a needle; representing AIDS among Jews and the work of the Jewish Aids Trust. Black and white lithograph (Wellcome Library no. 666512i)
– Two rows of Olympic coloured condoms; advertisement for safer sex by the Terrence Higgins Trust for those affected by HIV/AIDS (Wellcome Library no. 666857i