Kids taught to use art for addressing tough issues

Psychotherapists set up programmes to help youngsters cope with life

Children from Peddie and its surrounds are learning to use play therapy to help them address issues in their communities.
Art psychotherapist Merran Roy has developed a programme that encourages children to explore their creative spark using art psychotherapy principles that focus on the art-making process as therapeutic practice.
Her NGO, Intlantsi, provides a safe space for children to play and create using various art mediums, including visual art, drama, dance, music and story-telling during weekly sessions at their schools.
Roy founded Intlantsi in 2015, together with fellow art psychotherapist Mojalefa Koyana. Both graduated with master’s degrees in art psychotherapy from Goldsmiths, University of London, in the UK.
In seven schools across six villages in the Ngqushwa local municipality in the Eastern Cape, including Gcinisa, Lovers Twist and Mgababa, 800 children from play school level to Grade 9 attend the sessions, which have been incorporated into their school timetables.
“Art psychotherapy is a very specific and complex form of therapy. In a nutshell, the goal of art psychotherapy is to provide a safe space for people to become self aware through various creative processes, and this is what we try to encourage through the weekly sessions,” said Roy.
Recruiting young adults from the community to become art session facilitators, Roy and Koyana’s shared vision is to facilitate and support creativity in marginalised communities, creating a programme that can be self-sustainable.
“Although our facilitators don’t have degrees in art psychotherapy, we’ve trained them to understand and use the concepts and principals in their sessions,” said Roy.
“Even if we were to leave, the facilitators have skills and training that will allow them to keep going. We don’t see it as solely our project – it is by the community and for the community and they have ownership over it too,” added Koyana.
Through their weekly sessions the art facilitators give children the freedom to address and find solutions to various issues while expressing themselves creatively.
“There is no right or wrong and no expectations on the kids to create something specific. They are given basic instructions, but can draw, paint or write about anything they like. They can then talk about what they’ve created and what it means to them, which often leads to a realisation.
“Sometimes there are problematic emotions or traumas buried deep in your subconscious and art is one of the safest mediums or platforms that can be used to address these.
“Our sessions are non-directive, giving kids a chance to really explore whatever may be bothering them,” said Koyana.
Art facilitator for Intlantsi at Zanethemba Primary School in Lovers Twist, Nomphelo Dumke, said she really enjoyed working with the children and doing creative activities with them. “The bond that you form with the children during the art sessions is very special. Art allows these kids to come up with new and creative ideas by thinking out the box and gives them valuable problem-solving skills,” said Dumke.
Principal of Masibambisane Primary School in Mgababa, Solomon Willie, said Intlantsi had been wonderful for the children at his school. They also put on drama and dance productions twice a year to showcase their work to parents.
By 2020, Roy and Koyana hope to train over 30 facilitators and reach 3000 children, offering them crucial developmental and psychological support otherwise unavailable to them.
Going forward, Intlantsi also aims to open up similar sessions to all members of the communities in which they operate and construction of an art centre has already started...

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