AIDS Memorial Quilt and Candlelight Service – an invitation

This coming Sunday, 17 May, Te Papa is hosting the Wellington AIDS Candlelight Memorial Service. The Candlelight Service is an international event that takes place globally each May to honour those who have departed, and to raise awareness of issues facing those living with HIV world-wide. The service has been taking place every year since 1983, led by coalition of community organisations, such as Body Positive NZ, and coordinated by the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP). As kaitiaki (guardian) of the New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt, Te Papa was first approached to hold the service on Te Marae last year.

This block includes the first panel made in New Zealand – that dedicated to Peter Cuthbert, a Wellingtonian who was amongst a small group, brave enough to speak up as a gay man living with AIDS in the 1980s, when fear and misunderstanding was rampant.

This year, as with last, we will place one of these amazing quilt blocks on display for the duration of the service. At 11am I will give an illustrated talk on the history of the AIDS Memorial Quilt – the project’s origins in San Francisco, how activists engaged the values associated with quilt-making as a political strategy, and how in New Zealand the Quilt became ‘one of the nation’s most valuable resources for promoting a compassionate and educational dialogue about AIDS’.

The Candlelight Memorial Service itself will start at 12 noon. This year’s guest speaker is the extraordinary, and Honourable, Michael Kirby, a former justice of the High Court of Australia and one of Australia’s foremost jurists and human rights advocates. He has served on numerous Human Rights committees, including serving as a member of the World Health Organisation’s Global Commission on AIDS (1988-92) and of the UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights. He has the reputation as a powerful and inspirational speaker. He will address this year’s theme ‘Supporting the future’.

Michael Kirby will be joined at the service by New Zealand’s very own national treasure and agent of change, Dame Margaret Sparrow, a leading contraception specialist and sexual health physician. In 2002, Dame Margaret was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (later Dame) for services to medicine and the community. Throughout her long career, Margaret has avidly collected different forms of contraceptives as teaching aids. In 2011 she gifted her collection to Te Papa. The collection includes a number of products, such at the Hotbox condoms below, that were specifically promoted as a form of protection against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. This is one of the ways that Te Papa has been documenting the impact of HIV/AIDS on New Zealand culture.

This is a packet ‘Hotbox’ condoms, and part of a successful safe sex campaign commissioned by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation in 1999 aimed at Maori men. The box includes condoms, lubricants and information on how to use condoms effectively. Te Papa. Gifted by Dame Margaret Sparrow, 2011.

Over 150 items from Dame Margaret’s collection will be displayed at Te Papa from 30 May 2015 in the forthcoming exhibition Contraception: Uncovering the collection of Dame Margaret Sparrow – a literal A to Z of contraception from the 1910s to today.

As well as inspiring speakers, the AIDS Memorial Candlelight Service will feature the wonderful voices of The Glamaphones and Ti Whanawhana, and the opportunity to contribute to a ‘wishing tree’. Click here for the full programme.

The illustrated talk on the AIDS Memorial Quilt and the AIDS Candlelight Memorial Service is open to anyone who wishes to attend.

One Response

  1. Paul

    World-reknowned virologist Dr Peter Duesberg says that HIV cannot cause AIDS. It would good to have this debate in NZ.


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