Kami (Takalani Sesame)
|Takalani Sesame character|
|Voiced by||Fran Brill|
In 2002, Sesame Workshop announced that an HIV-positive character would be introduced to Takalani Sesame, the U.S. Agency for International Development-funded South African version of the show. This idea was considered crucial for an area where AIDS is an epidemic. The HIV+ character's name, Kami, is derived from Kamogelo, which means acceptance or 'a welcoming' in Setswana. Kami is a furry yellow five-year-old HIV-positive girl Muppet orphaned by AIDS who always has the sniffles. Her backstory is that she contracted the disease as the result of a transfusion of tainted blood received as an infant; her mother also died of HIV/AIDS. Kami illustrates to Takalani's viewers how to deal with loss and sad feelings in a way that three- to seven-year-olds can understand.
Kami was originally presented by Joel Schneider at the 14th International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain in 2002. Media reports at that time gave many the impression that this character was proposed for the American version of the program; some conservatives vigorously opposed the idea on the grounds that such a character could be "used to teach tolerance and acceptance of homosexuals".
Republican congressmen Billy Tauzin, Chip Pickering, Fred Upton, Joe Barton, Richard Burr and Cliff Stearns also cautioned PBS against introducing similarly-affected Muppets to an American audience, reminding PBS that Congress could withhold funding.
Kami has appeared at the United Nations and at the World Bank and was interviewed by Katie Couric on NBC News. Kami was named UNICEF's Champion for Children in November 2003 and has appeared in Takalani segments alongside Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, amongst others.
- "Nigerians set to find out how to get to Sesame Square". BBC News. 21 May 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
- "Sesame Street May Introduce HIV Muppet in U.S." Traditional Values Coalition. Archived from the original on 8 September 2005. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- Susman, Gary (Jul 17, 2002). "Muppet Masters". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- "HIV-positive Muppet appointed as "Champion for Children"". UNICEF. 2003-11-24.
- BBC article speculates on possible HIV+ Sesame character in the USA
- Kami formally appointed by the UN as a global champion for children
- Kami's creators are interviewed in the Sundance Film Festival documentary "The World According to Sesame Street"
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