Francesca Scelfo

The cruel paradise

2023 , KENYA

Contributions: AINA ONLUS

The cruel paradise is a long term project started between December 2022 and January 2023 in Kenya, mostly in the county of Meru and Igoji. It explores childhood struggles such as HIV and the shadows of a past marked by a pain lasting in the present.
I and Vicky Quondamatteo, the psychoanalysis leading Aina Onlus (Italian Association Nomad of Love), have just began understanding the interior worlds of the children home she created many years ago in Kenya: here the team helps children with HIV. Aina Onlus’s mission is to empower children affected by HIV to rise out of extreme poverty. It works with more than 800 children across the Meru county in Kenya.
Children can be infected from mothers during the pregnancy, by blood contacts and sexual relations.
During the visits to families in Meru County and Igoji County in Kenya, I saw that many families were very poor and lived in overcrowded, dirty conditions. Some of the children in these families were living with HIV. While some of them seemed to be aware of the importance of taking their medications and had aspirations for their future in work and study, others were unaware of their HIV status and did not take their medications as prescribed. This can have serious consequences for their health and overall well-being.
Change is a slow process and caring for people with HIV involves more than just providing them with medications to reduce the illness. People must also assume as their own initiative the social redemption, especially those on the margin, object of social injustices. This includes efforts towards cultural emancipation.
Children living of dreams and traumas have grown up experiencing the absence. They struggle to find a universal truth without being supported or helped. Absence has a double value: children live within the absence making it a full space.
Thus, they live in a relational space, avoiding the lonely search for speed. It is archaic because of its ability to keep track of the most obscure and private psyche. This time is fluid, and it gets being a non-time in the end, therefore opening a space of fullness.