Make Art/Stop AIDS (MASA) uses participatory film, theatre and performing arts to break the social, cultural and structural barriers to HIV testing, treatment and care.
MASA YOUTH PROJECT
Malawi still has one of the highest prevalence rates of HIV and AIDS in the world, and adolescents and youth, particularly girls, have been highlighted by the Government as an especially at risk group. The Make Art Stop Aids (MASA) Youth Project uses art and participatory approaches to put Malawian youth in control of their own sexual and reproductive health.
Building on the success of past MASA projects, MASA Youth trains university and college students in both participatory arts and technical information on Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) and HIV in particular. The students then form “MASA Squads”: groups which create performance pieces based on their own experiences and knowledge of issues faced by their peers, and the choices they have in responding to them. These performances are delivered on campus, complemented by confidential HIV testing and counselling (HTC).
These trained students then work with secondary schools to explore SRH and HIV issues, through a series of workshops which take their performance pieces as a starting point. During the workshops, secondary school students develop their own creative works on the issue, which are showcased in the schools at concluding MASA Festivals. The festivals are accompanied by facilitated discussion and HTC, and the students come together with teachers, parent representatives and others to create a school action plan on sexual health. The project works also with secondary school teachers, training them to deliver SRH information in a more sensitive, engaging and effective way.
MASA has evolved considerably over time. Currently, the programme uses participatory film screenings to mobilise communities, local leaders and healthcare centres to collaboratively address stigma, discrimination and fear around HIV/AIDS. The ultimate goal is to break the social, cultural and structural barriers to testing, treatment and care in Malawi.
Created by independent filmmaker Tom Gibb, the MASA film tells the story of a family’s struggle with HIV in a village in Malawi. Interviews with the actors, on whose experiences the film is based, are interwoven with footage of the story itself. The actors also facilitate community-wide discussions that follow each screening. Screenings culminate in the creation and execution of Community Action Plans (CAPs), encouraging community members to propose and implement locally and contextually appropriate solutions. Each screening also includes free on-site moonlight HIV testing and counselling.
The MASA Film was based on a performance developed through the MASA Rural Programme (RP). Using a Theatre for Development approach, MASA RP was a multi-week intervention in which ArtGlo facilitators collaborated with members of a rural community to write, direct and stage a performance focused on life with HIV/AIDS. To learn more about MASA RP, please see the programme’s history below.
The ArtGlo's cofounders, Dr. Galia Boneh and Sharifa Abdulla, MA, launched Make Art/Stop AIDS Rural Programme (MASA RP) in 2011. In its original iteration, the programme was an intensive multi-week intervention in which drama students at Chancellor College and community members living with HIV/AIDS collaborated to create a powerful musical drama based on real-life experiences. The performance took place in the villages surrounding a health centre in rural Malawi, included personal testimonies and community discussions, and was followed by workshops training local drama groups to create their own performances. The intervention culminated in a theatre festival, which attracted thousands of people.
As MASA RP evolved over the years, the original HIV+ participants became facilitators, drama students were fazed out of the programme, and community action planning and mobile HIV testing were incorporated. The MASA film was created to expand the programme’s reach. In 2014, ArtGlo partnered with Dignitas International (DI) and the Malawi Ministry of Health on a pilot screening programme, reaching an estimated 10,000 community members through 5 five facilitated screenings.