The Art and Global Health Centre Africa (AGHCA) was co-founded by participatory arts specialists Dr. Galia Boneh and Sharifa Abdulla, MA. At the AGHCA’s core is the belief that creativity, innovation, collaboration, empowerment and ownership are critical to grassroots social change. All of the Centre’s programmes have developed organically out of the needs and assets of the communities they serve. The AGHCA was formally registered as a non-profit in Malawi in 2013, but its story began years earlier...
In 2006, Professor David Gere founded the Art and Global Health Center at UCLA. Its mission was to nurture an international network of artists committed to harnessing the communicative power of the arts to advocate for public health. Professor Gere and Galia Boneh, his PhD student, developed a unique model that engages artists and people living with HIV/AIDS in a collaborative creative process. In 2008, she and Iddi Saaka were invited by the UCLA's Center for Global Health to develop an arts-based intervention addressing HIV/AIDS for Chancellor College, Malawi's top university. They engaged drama students and individuals living with HIV/AIDS in rural communities in a creative process that culminated in the production This Is My Story.
Inspired by the project’s success, Dr. Boneh returned to teach at Chancellor College as a Fulbright Scholar in 2011. She partnered with Sharifa Abdulla, one of the students who had performed in This Is My Story, to launch the Make Art/Stop AIDS Rural Programme (MASA RP). MASA RP used a Theatre for Development approach to break the social, cultural and structural barriers to HIV testing, treatment and care.
That year, protests around academic freedom at Chancellor College led to an unforeseen closure that lasted nearly nine months. During that time, Dr. Boneh’s students launched a series of innovative, arts-based advocacy projects that formed the basis of a new youth leadership programme, Students With Dreams (SWD). SWD provides college students with training, mentorship and seed funding to develop innovative projects that address pressing social issues.
A number of Dreamer projects gradually grew into independent programmes or organisations. The documentary film Umunthu: An African Response to Homosexuality, for example, evolved into the Umunthu Programme (UP). UP uses the arts to catalyse reflection and discussion, providing a platform to address issues of stigma and discrimination against LGBTI individuals through the lens of “Umunthu,” a Pan-African philosophical concept of humanity.