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July 13, 2007
V 35 Issue 28

 
 
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The Keiskamma Altarpiece at Seattle's St. Mark's Cathedral
The Keiskamma Altarpiece at Seattle's St. Mark's Cathedral
The altarpiece is an expression of hope for women, many living with HIV/AIDS, in South African villages

The Keiskamma Altarpiece, hosted by Saint Mark's Cathedral, conveys the message of how people came together in the village of Hamburg to address the AIDS epidemic that was creating fear and causing numerous deaths in the village. They came together to create a magnificent work of art that tells their story of moving from despair to expressing a message of hope and renewal as they learned how the disease was spread and were empowered with that knowledge to support a major health initiative in the village. The village of Hamburg, located at the mouth of the Keiskamma River in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, is marred by the poverty of the region, previously part of the Ciskei, one of the homelands established by the apartheid government.

In 2001 a group of local women established the Keiskamma Art Project, with the dual aims of restoration of dignity and poverty alleviation in the Hamburg area through art and craft. This project provides regular income to over 200 local women resulted in creation of monumental artworks both locally and internationally, including the Keiskamma Altarpiece.

In 2002 the Keiskamma Health Project developed as a function of the Keiskamma Art Project, expanding the mission and objectives of the Keiskamma Trust to include health and accessibility of health services for local communities. The Keiskamma Health Project aims to promote access to health care in Hamburg providing effective and sensitive care for people infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS, in partnership with state primary health care structures in support of and as an advocate for people's rights to access quality health care.

The burden of HIV/AIDS was immediately identified as one of the most serious health problems facing the community. In 2003, the Trust, with help of a private donor, employed a full-time HIV educator. The next year, in 2004, Dr Hofmeyr began treating patients with HAART (Highly Active Anti-retroviral Therapy), paying for the costly drugs out of her own pocket and with the help of donations. In January 2005, the Keiskamma Trust gained funding through a partnership with major international organizations, and was able to employ additional staff and provide HAART to a far larger group of people. The program provides the only HIV treatment in the district, and increasingly patients travel from neighboring districts seeking care.

The National Tour of the Keiskamma Altarpiece is providing funding to the Health Project through the fees paid by participating venues and greatly expanding the number of people treated. Saint Mark's Cathedral is the fifth location on the National Tour and will be on display at Saint Mark's on Seattle's Capitol Hill until September 20th.

Regular tours are scheduled Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.and Sundays at 10:10 a.m., 12:45 p.m., and 10:10 p.m. Tours are also available by appointment, and scheduling special events is possible.

Courtesy of St. Marks

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