The House Is Small but the Welcome Is Big

In conjunction with The House Is Small, a project of the non-profit organization Venice Arts, Exit Art presented The House Is Small but the Welcome Is Big, an exhibition of recent photography by fifteen people from Mozambique and South Africa affected by HIV/AIDS.

Over the past two years an unlikely group of photographers have documented the life and death struggle of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Children from Maputo, Mozambique, orphaned by AIDS, and HIV-positive women in Cape Town, South Africa were given cameras by Venice Arts, a non-profit media arts organization in Venice, California devoted to social art initiatives. They were asked to take pictures in their communities that tell the uncensored story of their lives. The result is a stirring exhibit of photographs that made its New York debut at Exit Art in Exit Underground.

The photos are tragic and hopeful, lively and compelling. Some are difficult to look at. All of them are hard to dismiss. “We gave these women and children professional digital cameras, taught them the basics of how to use them and provided a little encouragement,” says Lynn Warshafsky, co-founder of The House is Small.

The name of the project came from one of the photographs taken by 28 year-old Funeka Nceke of Cape Town. On the wall of her friend’s home hangs an embroidered cloth that reads, “The House Is Small But the Welcome Is Big.” Funeka lives in a shack with no electricity or running water with her two children and two additional family members. Funeka learned she was HIV-positive in 2003.

Neal Baer is co-founder of the project. “These children, as young as 10 and no older than 18, have a lot to say through these images about living on their own and raising younger siblings by themselves,” says Baer. “That’s the harsh truth about AIDS in Africa. Millions of children are growing up alone, a generation without the guidance or love of parents.”

Proceeds from sales of the prints will be used to establish a photographic institute in Maputo, Mozambique so that young photographers there can continue to document their lives. This exhibition was previously presented at Gallery M in Denver, Colorado.

Curated by The House Is Small co-founders, Neal Baer, Jim Hubbard, and Lynn Warshafsky.

ABOUT VENICE ARTS

The House Is Small is a project of Venice Arts, a nonprofit organization running innovative programs in documentary photography, filmmaking, and digital media/arts, primarily targeting low-income youth in the Los Angeles area since 1993. The organization also implements regional, national and international participant-produced photo documentary projects with adults and children. In 2007, Venice Arts joined with the USC Annenberg Center for Communication and Leadership to create the Venice Arts/USC Institute for Photographic Empowerment. Since its inception 15 years ago, Venice Arts has come to be recognized as an Exemplary Arts Organization and has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions for its unique Media Art Mentoring programs and its innovative integration of technology into arts learning.

EXHIBITION SUPPORT

This exhibition was supported with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency. General exhibition support from Bloomberg LP, Carnegie Corporation, Starry Night Fund at The Tides Foundation, Exit Art’s Board of Directors and our members. Special thanks to Venice Arts, Venice, California.