Asian and African studies blog

News from our curators and colleagues

09 December 2019

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Designers promoting Aids awareness on Asian, African & Middle Eastern postage stamps (2)

World Aids Day was first marked on 1 December 1988, an historic event commemorated by the issue of postage stamps all over the world, including in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. As noted in the first of this two-part blog post, issued on 1 December 2019, the philatelic material produced then and in subsequent years can thus provide important insights into Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) contributions towards art and design, and more examples are presented in the second part of this post.

Ethiopia issued three stamps commemorating World Aids Day on 18 June 1991. Lithograph-printed by the State Printing Works in Vienna, each one depicts a design created by Ethiopian artist Million Abiyou.
Figure 14_20191126_10405191  Figure 15_20191126_10414529
British Library, Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection, Ethiopia
The 15c stamp charts the decline of a young Ethiopian man’s heath until his death after contracting HIV and Aids. The 85c stamp depicts a lecturer teaching an unspecified audience about Aids prevention.
Figure 16_20191126_10422793
British Library, Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection, Ethiopia
This 1b stamp depicts preventative measures to reduce the risk of contracting HIV and Aids, including practicing ‘safe sex’ as well as avoiding needles, razors and other items containing blood possibly contaminated with HIV and Aids. It also depicts a family sheltered underneath an umbrella symbolising protection.

Figure 17_20191126_10512158  Figure 18_20191126_10514990
British Library, Philatelic Collections: Publicity Material, Cyprus
On 13 December 1991, the Turkish Cypriot Post issued a 1000 TL stamp commemorating World Aids Day. Designed by Sanatcinin Adi it depicts four different sources of infection including safe sex, drug, transmission of infected blood and an unborn baby contracting the disease of an infected mother. The British Library’s Philatelic Collections does not hold an example of the stamp but does have the publicity leaflet released by the Postal Authority containing information on its manufacture, production and sale.

Figure 19_20191126_10532183
British Library, Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection, Morocco
Morocco issued a 3f stamp commemorating World Aids Day on 20 November 1991. Produced by Belgian artist Lisette Delooz’s design depicts two figures within a splash of blood.

On 31 January 1992, Kenya issued four stamps lithograph-printed by Cartor as part of an Anti-Aids Campaign. Each one has a separate design created by designer H. Mogul.

Figure 20_20191126_10071468  Figure 21_20191126_10073416
British Library, Philatelic Collections: Crown Agents Philatelic & Security Printing Archive, Kenya
The 2/- stamp depicts a generic male figure with a hand touching his right shoulder with the statement ‘AIDS. YOU TOO CAN BE INFECTED.’ The 6/- stamp depicts a man within a Petrie dish above medications overlaid with a red cross with the statement Surmounting the design is the statement ‘AIDS HAS NO CURE.’

Figure 22_20191126_10075251  Figure 23_20191126_10080899
British Library, Philatelic Collections: Crown Agents Philatelic & Security Printing Archive, Kenya
This 8/50 stamp depicts the male and female symbol representing a heterosexual couple accompanied by the statement ‘AIDS. CASUAL SEX IS UNSAFE.’ The 11/- stamp depicts a generic male figure standing behind a hypodermic syringe in the foreground with the text ‘AIDS. STERILISE SYRINGE BEFORE USE.’

On 22 January 2001 Lesotho issued four Anti-Aids Campaign stamps for the Positive Action Society Lesotho designed by Seatile Nkhomo and lithograph-printed by Questa.
Figure 24  Figure 25
British Library, Philatelic Collections: General Collection
The 70s stamp depicts a Basotho warrior fighting Aids whilst the 1m carries the text ‘SPEED KILLS SO DOES AIDS. Go Slow’

Figure 26  Figure 27
British Library, Philatelic Collections: General Collection
The 1m.50 stamp depicts two women with the statement ‘People with AIDS need friends not rejection’; and the 2m.10 stamp illustrates a rifle, military helmet, unused condom and boots beside the text ‘Even when you’re off duty protect the nation.’

Finally, Nigeria issued two stamps commemorating World Aids Day on 3 May 2003, all designed by Nigerian artist T. Faluyi.
Figure 28_20191126_10544746  Figure 29_20191126_10550580
British Library, Philatelic Collections: Crown Agents Philatelic & Security Printing Archive, Nigeria
The 20N stamp illustrates a nurse tending to a seriously ill patient accompanied by the text ‘Caring for Aids victim.’ On the left side of the stamp can be seen the iconic World Aids Day ribbon. Meanwhile, the 50N stamp depicts a woman using a microphone addressing a crowd whilst gesturing towards a poster with the text ‘AIDS is REAL Beware!’

The philatelic materials discussed from Africa, Asia and the Middle East show how important stamps are in researching consistent contributions from the BAME community towards art and design. An obvious question remains: where is the original design and artwork located? Sadly, it is impossible to answer this question at present. We suspect such artwork and design material will exist within various official archival and unofficial private collections scattered globally. As its cultural value becomes increasingly recognised, the locations of such material will hopefully become known.

According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, almost thirty seven million individuals around the globe live with the HIV virus whilst nearly as many people have died from HIV-related complications, including Aids, since the 1980s. Such figures of course fail to take into account the stigma that individuals who have contracted Aids can suffer. Sub-Saharan Africa is the hardest hit region, with more than seventy percent of the world’s people living with HIV. The study of Aids can therefore extend way beyond medical science and incorporate intensely personal cultural and historic perspectives, a deserving issue demanding further research.

In addition to surveying the British Library’s Philatelic Collections, both authors conducted a wider scoping exercise to identify Aids-related material in various languages held within the British Library’s collections. From a visual and textual culture perspective, our rich holdings include journals, monographs, research papers, pamphlets, NGO publications and audio material. We call upon curators and academics to research this important subject further, to develop a resource for mainstream audiences in a more sustainable form.

Richard Scott Morel, Curator, Philatelic Collections
Eyob Derillo, Ethiopic Collections Engagement Support Ccownwork