Eh!woza (ehwoza.com) is a collaborative public engagement (PE) programme involving biomedical researchers, a conceptual artist, anthropologists, musicians and young people living in Khayelitsha, a township in Cape Town. The programme operates at the intersection of PE, youth education, and advocacy, with the ultimate aim of decreasing stigma and encouraging positive health-seeking behaviour through different forms of engagement. In its core programme, The Eh!woza Doccies, youth in Khayelitsha are engaged in current TB biomedical research and the production of short documentaries about the social impact of TB. Within this, one group of high-school learners created a documentary in 2018 called “Moyo ‘omdaka”, directly translated meaning “dirty air”. While the title of the film can be understood to mean “dirty air” as mode and means of transmission of TB, the word ‘moya’ in isiXhosa also mean life or life force. Given the aetiology of TB and its transmission via exhaled particles from human to human, breath is inextricably linked to breathing and in some senses to life. Through uncovering issues of breath from a physical and metaphysical perspective and how this relates to an infectious disease such as TB, Eh!woza was able to quickly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, producing a series of documentaries and informational animations.
This presentation will provide a summary of Eh!woza (as well as how the organisation has responded to COVID-19) and then describe how the media produced within the programme firmly demonstrate how TB, for which breathing is essential to its transmission, is also inseparable from life and the social conditions in which it occurs and the lives and life forces which it impacts. In addition to this, it will touch on differences and similarities around people’s perspectives and thoughts of COVID-19 and how these insights could inform other community engagement efforts as well as medical control initiatives.