"Care for and protect children, Fight against HIV!"
Stepping out from room 2 of the Megastar Cineplex movie theatre, my eyes refocused in the lobby’s early afternoon glare. I then saw something surprising which I had somehow neglected to catch before, having entered the theatre in that 5 minutes late to the film sort of mania. An art gallery had magically appeared before me. Wait, an art gallery in the lobby of a movie theatre, hmm? What a great idea! You’ll always have an audience, and you can propagate whatever message it is you are intent on propagating. I was pleased to discover that this was an exhibition promoting awareness of HIV/AIDS here in Vietnam. The paintings had all been created by local high school students, and centered around the themes of both living with HIV/AIDS and HIV/AIDS prevention.
|The "gallery" at Megastar Cineplex|
In a country where sex education is still a pilot program, I felt very satisfied and not just a little surprised to see the issues of drugs, sex and discrimination among other social issues being openly and thoughtfully expressed by a segment of the population extremely susceptible to its effects and starved of much needed information. The artwork contained the children’s unadulterated sincerity towards creating a unified society, expressing sympathy towards those living with the virus while mercilessly shunning the evils of the disease along with its mediums of transmission, such as intravenous drugs.
Being able to make the distinction between the unfortunate ones carrying HIV/AIDS from the virus itself is an extremely important step in building acceptance in a communal society such as this, where differences of any sort do not go unnoticed and are largely frowned upon, if not shunned altogether.
"Give me the right to be human"
Sitting by himself at table of scattered brochures and Durex condoms was a teenage boy with earphones on texting and smiling to himself. He stood up, approached me and asked in English if I would choose and record my five favorite pieces from the exhibition on a sheet of paper, as it was playing the dual role of promoting both awareness and healthy competition among the artists. I asked the boy if I could take a picture of him “at work” then returned the form and headed towards the elevator.