Fifteen of the 17 grandmothers featured in the exhibition attended the launch on July 21. Many of the women suffer from arthritis, hypertension and other health problems, and some had to use walking sticks for the evening. Nevertheless, they sung and danced with such vigour that they would have put young men to shame. One of the best parts of the evening was seeing them looking at each others’ photos, some of the grandmothers pointing at the pictures with their walking sticks and chuckling.
GAPA: Grandmothers Against Poverty & Aids
Thousands of grandmothers across South Africa are having to cope with the consequences of the AIDS pandemic, at a time when they had hoped to retire and be cared for by their families.
These women are taking on greater responsibility than they could ever have imagined as they care for their own ill and dying children, and become parents to their orphaned grandchildren.
The Nevergiveups is a colloquial translation of the Xhosa term Amatsha Ntliziyo, and a reference to the pro-active resilience the grandmothers display in dealing with the circumstances in which they find themselves.
The Nevergiveups photo exhibition is about a group of grandmothers who are showing extraordinary grit, care for others and even humour, despite the heavy burdens they carry. The grandmothers in the exhibition are among the many who have formed a support and activist group called Grandmothers Against Poverty and AIDS. This organization, they say, “is keeping us alive”.
South African photojournalist Eric Miller has captured the struggle and spirit of 17 grandmothers in intimate portraits of them, and their families. The photographs will be combined with excerpts from the grandmothers’ life stories, documented by award-winning South African journalist Jo-Anne Smetherham.
The exhibit will form the foundation of a book about the grannies’ lives.
The Nevergiveups exhibition
The exhibition acknowledges the challenges the grandmothers face but also celebrates their enormous power and strength in their communities, as both carers and activists.
GAPA has taught thousands of grannies skills from parenting to first-aid, vegetable gardening and income-generation through handcrafts. In helping to keep each other going, these grandmothers are helping to keep many orphans fed and educated. “My sisters at GAPA counsel me, they comfort me. Without them, I would be dead by now,” says Mrs. Mdaka, a GAPA co-founder.
The grandmothers at GAPA say the organization has changed their lives. Visitors see that this is true. When the grandmothers get together to sing and dance, they raise the roof. They even get together at bus stops to hand out condoms to educate the passers-by about safe sex, singing and dancing as they do so.
Our Long Term Goals
Our ultimate goal is to raise global awareness and a sense of social responsibility, while generating ongoing support for GAPA. We intend to continue supporting the organization in its current activities and as well as with similar initiatives in other areas of South Africa and in other African countries. GAPA has already begun this work, helping grandmothers to set up similar projects in other provinces of South Africa, as well as in Tanzania.