Artist Jessica Whitbread was interested in finding ways to build community among the fragmented and disconnected network of women living with HIV, which lead her to create Tea Time, a series of gatherings for women living with HIV in cities around the world. At these Tea Times women would share stories and write letters. In her first book, Whitbread brings these letters together and provides to the world stories from women talking about their life, family, struggles and successes.

From the press release:

Tea Time: Mapping Informal Networks of Women Living with HIV began as Jessica Whitbread’s master’s thesis. She was interested in finding a way to build the fragmented and disconnected network of women living with HIV in Canada through a community-based research project that brought women living with HIV together using the Tea Time method. The project was designed to highlight the health needs of women living with HIV in a North American context, as well as to explore the application of the Tea Time method as a community-building tool. After the original research phase was complete, Tea Time has shifted to be a community arts project and has expanded globally.

Through this work Jessica has hosted tea parties with over 64 women living with HIV. Each woman’s (including Jessica) participation was documented through a personal letter and teacup that has been photographed. The Tea Time book is a collection of the photos as well as an introduction to the Tea Time method and Jessica’s personal and academic insight into the project.

“Tea Time became a personal journey to discover my own understanding of HIV in relation to gender. Each woman’s story is rooted in her own individual experience. This is mine. Similar to the many conversations that were had during Tea Time, these pages offer glimpses of the complicated thought process of living with HIV. You will read about some of these thoughts in the letters that were shared by the women who attended.”

The book is a 194-page hard cover coffee table book that has a very limited printing of 100 copies. There will be a smaller number of copies that have very limited edition cover sleeves by Jessica MacCormack, Johnny Nawrajac and Anthea Black. Each book has gold foil stamping and will be numbered. With only 25 copies being available at each launch, and there will also be a free online version available to everyone. All the donations will go towards continuing the project and continuing to build the community.

Please join us to celebrate the brave and amazing women living with HIV who participated in this body of work. We want to thank our friends and community members for being there for use to help make use strong enough to find the cracks in the stigma and find each other.

Contact Jessica Whitbread to RSVP and/or inquire about reserving copies of the book.
Tea Time Launch, Montreal

Special love goes out to Johnathan Lefrancois for being the rock that designed the book; Anthea, Johnny, and Jessica for being so supportive and gracious for designing beautiful cover sleeves; Julie, Jill, Morgan, Cate, Will, Robert, Darien and Lesley my volunteer editors; and last but not least the brave and beautiful women living with HIV that participated in the project.Thanks to SRC and CIHR for the funding to make sharing this work possible.

Jessica Whitbread