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Churchill Madikida's art has been exhibited extensively across South Africa, Europe and the United States. His work, in a variety of media including photography, video and live performance, explores the physical and psychological traditions of his Xhosa culture, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic that has affected his family and so many others in his homeland. He believes that art can play a vital role in the fight against the epidemic, as it did against apartheid, by increasing the public dialogue about HIV/AIDS, thereby destigmatising the disease.
In an introduction to his exhibition titled Status at Michael Stevenson Gallery in late 2005, Churchill noted that he chose to focus on HIV/AIDS both in solidarity with the national campaign to intensify awareness of the disease and as a personal response to tragedy. He wrote: "I have watched the annihilation from the sidelines but I have just had a close encounter with the effects of the virus myself. My sister lived with HIV for more than nine years and passed away recently (in April 2005); we were very close to each other. Her death made me realise the extent of the despair that the virus is causing to millions of people both infected and affected by it. This exhibition is about my personal journey but reflects on millions of other people's experiences as well."
During the exhibition, and when the work was subsequently displayed at Documenta 12, Madikida presented two video projections: Virus, which alludes to the spread of HIV within the body and throughout communities; and Nemesis, which reflects on the horror of child abuse motivated by the belief that the rape of a virgin or infant provides a cure for AIDS. These works and others are discussed in Churchill's interview with Paul Sendziuk, which can be accessed from this page.
Status also featured three 'shrines' that resemble caskets. As Madikida explained, "One is dedicated to my sister; the second is a small coffin dedicated to all the infants and children who have died because of the virus, and the third can be dedicated to anyone who is infected with the virus." During the exhibition visitors were able to light candles as a gesture of mourning as well as hope for the future.
Churchill Madikida completed a BA in Fine Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in 2001. He has studied museum curatorship in Paris and has had curatorial experience in South Africa and New York. His art has been recognized with the Anya Millman Travel Scholarship (2003), the Tollman Award (2003) and the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art (2006).
Detail from 'Status' (2005), mixed media installation at Documenta 12, Kassel, Germany, 2007.