Photography Exhibit Displays The Strength Of African Grandmothers
Opening this month at the Daniel Spectrum Building in Toronto, the Unsung S/Heroes photography exhibit tells the untold story of African grandmothers on the front lines of the battle against the AIDS pandemic.
After losing their adult children to the AIDS pandemic, many African grandmothers are forced to foster grandchildren, entering the caregiver role once again.
Mainstream representations of the pain these woman experience isn’t inaccurate—yet they only tell a fraction of the story.
The Stephen Lewis Foundation is telling the rest of that story with an exhibit in Toronto, Ontario called The Unsung S/Heroes as part of the Scotia Bank CONTACT Photography Festival, which runs through May.
While the hardship experienced by African grandmothers isn’t excluded, the photographs in the exhibit also represent the strength of these women as a mobilizing force against the AIDS pandemic.
Alexis MacDonald, the photographer for the exhibit who’s been involved with the organization for 13 years, says that telling the story accurately was about having her subjects control the narrative.
“We wanted to tell the diverse stories of these woman through their own voices and through their own lens of how they want to be seen.”
Key to that process was the five years spent building trust with the grandmothers. With the help of partnering community-based organisations, the photos and quotes were collected in close consultation with the woman involved.
Adding yet another layer of meaning to the exhibit was designer Deborah Moss, co-founder of Moss & Lam design studio. Typically specializing in five star hotels and luxury retail, Moss who worked pro-bono on the project, says she relished the opportunity to tell a story with her design. “That’s my world,” she says of high-end design, “but to do something that has such meaning and relationship to real people meant something to me.”