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The Keiskamma Altarpiece is a contemporary icon of how the human spirit can rise above adversity and create a work of enduring strength and beauty. The Altarpiece, a hand-sewn memorial to victims of HIV-AIDS and a magnificent visual testament of hope for the future, is composed of three series of hinged panels (13 feet high and 22 feet long) created by 120 Xhosa people, mostly women, from the village of Hamburg, in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province.
The Altarpiece, named for its place of origin - the Keiskamma River valley, will arrive at the Cathedral in early June and be available for viewing through mid-September this year. The Altarpiece tells the story in striking visual images of the experience by the citizens of Hamburg as they have coped with devastation wrought by HIV-AIDS - 1/3 of the population of 3500 is suffering from this disease. The Altarpiece uses the form and themes of Grunewald's Isenheim Altarpiece created during a virulent plague in the Middle Ages and presents images of people and the local environment of Hamburg relating their own stories of loss and redemption through artistic expression. It celebrates the strength of grandmothers who bear responsibility for the children in these times.Peter Sellers, London Opera, upon viewing the Altarpiece stated that "This is the best example I know of multi-culturalization running the other way: enlightenment and joy from the Third World to the Developed World."
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