Gareth Watkins' upcoming exhibition 30 will mark the 30th anniversary of the first AIDS-related death in New Zealand. 30 opens at the New Zealand Film Archive, where Watkins is the 2014 Curator-at-Large, next Tuesday. Watkins says it highlights the early years of HIV/AIDS, explores changing community attitudes and responses, and acknowledges those that have died. "I approached the curation of this exhibition reflecting on an individual story of love and loss," says Watkins, "that of Kevin Todd and his panel in the New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt, beautifully realised by Welby Ings and now the poster image for this exhibition,” he says. "The quilt panel made me think about what it must have been like in those early years when outwardly healthy young men suddenly became ill, many with Kaposi’s sarcoma - a rare form of cancer - and/or Pneumocystis pneumonia. Many died within months from a range of further opportunistic infections." Panels from the quilt will feature in the exhibition, alongside a range of television and film footage from the period. The first AIDS death in New Zealand was in 1984 when a young man returned from overseas to his home in New Plymouth. In 1986 a paper was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal that described the first 11 patients with AIDS to be treated at Auckland Hospital. Over half died within 13 months of diagnosis. All were gay men, aged between 28 and 43. The exhibition’s title not only marks the 30th anniversary of the first death in New Zealand, but it also highlights the age group that many of these gay men were in when they passed away. "I say gay men because in the early years it was gay men (and their friends and families) who bore much of the impact of HIV/AIDS,” Watkins says. “Many in wider society saw it as a 'gay cancer'. In time, however, we were to understand that anyone could be infected and could infect others irrespective of gender, sexuality or age.” The opening of 30 is at 6.30pm on Tuesday with a screening of 30 significant HIV/AIDS moments from the Film Archive collection will be followed by a curator talk and reception. The 30 exhibition will run from 16 April through 14 June, 2014, at the Film Archive, 84 Taranaki St, Wellington. Admission is free.
Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff
First published: Tuesday, 8th April 2014 - 2:26pm
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