Overcoming post-conflict trauma with art: three African case studies

In volatile environments such as conflict-torn North Kivu, post-genocide Rwanda, or Sierra Leone, experts and humanitarian aid workers are now employing art to support the treatment of mental health conditions caused by violence. In many areas of the African continent, people with psychological illnesses lack effective therapeutic support – left alone in dealing with the sickness and forced to fight every day against the stigma. In these circumstances, art therapy can represent an important ally to cure pathologies such as PTSD, depression or nevrosis.

Leggi il seguito

Applying musictherapy to human health, an experience from Africa

Music has always been part of Nsamu Moonga’s life, a young African musictherapist working in Boksburg, South Africa. A passionate student of music and psychotherapy, he decided to offer his skills – and his vocation – to the community. He works with children and young people at risk, in schools and in public institutions. Confident of music communicative and healing capacities – and of the diversity within the continent to be treasured -, he works connecting practice and research, enhancing African traditions and music.

Leggi il seguito

Migrants’ post-traumatic stress is aggravated by hotspot system

Most of the migrants who have arrived in Europe by sea since 2015 have experienced violence: mental health problems emerge during the reception period in host countries, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder. Thanks to a recent study, we know that what awaits these people upon arrival matters just as much as their experiences along the migration route and in their country of origin. Life in large facilities such as hotspots and CARAs can negatively affect previous traumas. Associations agree: it is time to remove the obstacles to integration, radically changing the border approach proposed by the EU.

Leggi il seguito

Ghana, exorcisms and witch hunts. Stories from Witch Camps

Beliefs regarding supernatural powers and the ability to use them to harm others are extremely widespread in this West African country. Witchcraft in particular, which still today is not considered a superstition but a concrete possibility. The main victims are elderly women, usually widows and without protection. Just point the finger and accuse them of being the cause of an illness, of “bad luck” in business, of all sorts of things. They are often beaten and cases of lynching are not uncommon. For them there is only one choice: to flee and find refuge in isolated and remote villages. We visited four of them and collected testimonies from these women banned from society for committing “invisible crimes”.

Leggi il seguito

Ghana, the solitude of the mentally ill in wards that were prisons

There are three such structures in the country. A 2012 law, which establishes, among other things, the decentralization of psychiatric services, has significantly reduced the number of patients and the problem of overcrowding. Today the number of beds exceeds the number of patients. However, there are still issues of abandonment and the stigma towards those with mental disorders. This investigation contains some stories of the guests of the oldest hospital (it dates back to 1906 and was in the beginning a prison) and the interview with the executive director of Mental Health Authority who also talks about the principle and reasons for the so-called “decolonizing mental health”.

Leggi il seguito

“Mental 360”, in Kenya against youth depression and suicides

Mental 360 is a non-profit mental health awareness organization that has been active since 2016. Among its activities there are physical wellness, counselling, art therapy, yoga and dance, all aiming at promoting mental health and emotional stability. The end goal is to establish a society where mental illness is not stigmatized and treatment is affordable to the common citizen everywhere in Africa. We talked with Bright Shitemi, co-founder of the organization, who explained us the inspiration behind the NGO and the objectives, obstacles, results achieved to date and future goals.

Leggi il seguito

“Andolo, the Talented Albino”, an interview with author Nsah Mala

In the African continent, hostility and discrimination against people with albinism are widely spread. In order to celebrate albinos and help overcome stigma, more and more authors have been writing and publishing stories about this issue. Such is the case of “Andolo: the Talented Albino“, a children’s book written by Cameroonian author Nsah Mala. As detailed in the interview by Pina Piccolo of The Dreaming Machine, the author was inspired by the experience of his relatives to tell the engaging story of a child with albinism, with the aim of entertaining and educating his young readers.

Leggi il seguito

“Living Death”, a hopeless life with sadness weaved into the bones

One Global Voice reaches Botswana with this poem dedicated to the fatigue of living. When not engaged in her work, Maipelo M Zambane dedicates herself to reading and above all to writing: she keeps a very active profile on Twitter and collaborates with the digital magazine Afrolutionist, which aims to contribute to inclusive development in Africa and in the African diaspora through the perspective of human rights. “I don’t remember the day i stopped embracing hope,” thus ends this painful piece from her recent Life and Everything in Between collection.

Leggi il seguito

“Like a candle in the wind”, so we blow out the flame of our life

“It’s so difficult, this living thing / two decades sometimes / are more than one can bear”, this is the beginning of this moving poem composed about the sudden death of a very young and talented poet. It is the author herself to explain it, vangile gantsho, South African poet and healer who started to write and create at a young age and developed an interest into confessional and political writing. Although “some scars are too deep / even for poetry”, this poem enlightens the darkest emotions of the human soul that can lead to suicide, a choice no one should quickly label as coward and selfish, the author says.

Leggi il seguito

Tender Arts Nigeria: music, theatre and painting inside hospitals

TANigeria was founded in 2013 to promote art in all its forms within healthcare facilities in Nigeria and other African countries. It offers a wide range of activities aiming at improving social interaction, easing stress and bringing some color to hospitals wards. Through art, patients are able to express their emotions without words and over 7 years, more than 15,000 people have had the opportunity to take part in these projects which are tailored specifically to the patient’s personal experience. We talked with the founder of this social enterprise, Kunle Adewale, who explained us their programs, objectives and difficulties.

Leggi il seguito

Noluthando Makalima and adaptive surf: living life into the waves

Noluthando Makalima was born with cerebral palsy, but her disability never prevented her from achieving what she wanted to do in life. She is a talented young adaptive surfer from Cape Town, who gained a silver medal at the 2020 World Paralympic Championship. She currently represents South African excellences in the international parasports field and she wants to continue her training to compete again next year, despite the challenges she has to face everyday. Her main desire is to become a role model for young people. Surf isn’t just a sport for this athlete: it’s therapy, a way to feel free and safe, to challenge herself, to fully live her body. Her experience is a real life story that needs to be known in order to raise awareness about people with disabilities in sport.

Leggi il seguito

“No title”, when words dissolve in the whirlpool of deep depression

A poem entitled “No title”, because when one suffers from depression there seem to be no words to describe it. The world around seems to dissolve and words are deprived of their meaning and unfit to describe one’s feelings. This is the theme at the heart of the poem by Alum Comfort Anne, a young and talented Ugandian poet who has been inspired by her personal struggle with depression. She takes us in the middle of a stormy night, torn by the desire both to live and to die, until the break of dawn. The final verses convey not only the despair behind a suicide attempt but also the invincible faith in human solidarity and mutual support, because “we are all just human, anyway”.

Leggi il seguito

Kenya, inABLE schools for the blind and visually impaired students

Approximately one billion people in the world live with some form of disability and around 80% is located in developing countries. 90% of children with disabilities do not receive an education or attend school. To tackle this problem, inABLE has structured a specific program for young students with visual disabilities called “Computers-Labs-for-the-Blind”. We interviewed Irene Mbari-Kirika, founder and executive director of the no profit organisation to address the issue of digital accessibility in view of the Inclusive Africa Conference 2020.

Leggi il seguito

“Left without”, a woman inside the imaginery cave of depression

Akimana Divine is a Rwandan poet, mental healthcare advocate and human rights activist. Her works have been published on numerous magazines and anthologies. The poem “Left without” allow us into that imaginery cave that is depression: a dark place where one is left without anything but his/her ghosts and fears. Divine has had her own hardships in life, first as a young girl being bullied for her weight and then as a single mother raising her boy alone. These painful experiences led her to find comfort in poetry and to write her own poems as a way of struggling against depression.

Leggi il seguito

“My mother’s depression”, inherited on the night of the blood moon

Carolyne M. Acen, aka Afroetry, is a Ugandan Spoken word poet, writer and counselor. She has dedicated her life to poetry, which for her has become a form of activism to raise consciousness about delicate and complex issues: among these the condition of women, the search for freedom and all the prejudices coming from a patriarchal and macho mentality, not only African one. In this text, “My mother’s depression” she explores the theme of psychological distress linked to the family situation and, in fact, to a form of life oppressed by social constraining.

Leggi il seguito

“I am a refugee in my mind”, when the sense of belonging is lost

In his poem “I am a refugee in my mind”, Alex Kitaka describes the sense of estrangement from the world and even oneself brought by mental distress. Bad thoughts represented by house flies buzz in our head and keep saying that there is no place for us, anywhere. But Alex reminds us that there is always a chance for us to bloom like roses and to heal through sharing: “I believe that writing creates a safer place to let out and let go of feelings that endanger someone’s mental health. Like always, writing is therapy!”

Leggi il seguito

Baya Osborn, “Ocean Eyes”, where there is no past, no history

Baya Osborn is a Kenyan born poet and writer and use the pen name Bayable Word. He is just 18 years old. “My life journey has been poetic” he told us. We also asked how come he has written poems on mental health: “Mental illness is something that is really affecting any people. Mostly people of the young age, and it is we writers that are supposed to wake and encourage those people going through tough times through our writings that we care about them, we will speak for them and their lives will change”.

Leggi il seguito

Nobukho Nqaba: impermanence and migration in performance art

When it comes to migration, nothing is certain: no one knows when he/she will arrive or how long he/she will stay. The art of Nobukho Nqaba tells us stories, both visionary and real, about what is transient, destined to end. Nobukho was born in Butterworth, a small rural city in South Africa’s  Eastern Cape. When she was six, she had to migrate within South Africa due to family issues. In this interview, she tells us about her performances that convey through her own body and presence – and often through the famous “Ghana must go home” – a sense of identiy, loneliness and otherness.

Leggi il seguito

Eleazer Obeng, “The Devil’s Snare”: that silent, oppressive evil

“The sun is up, it seems like a new day sigh. you are still here. It’s not. How did you get in? I cry. Hubbub waters my anxiety. Sprouting doubt, and the traumas of my past I thought I buried.” This poem, as Eleazer Obeng tells us, “was born as annotations in which I tried to make sense of a facade created to remove an empitenss that I felt inside and that I could not explain to myself”. Dennis, this is the name in real life, defines himself as a “gender fluid” and in Ghana, the country where he was born and lives, he is an activist for queer rights.

Leggi il seguito

“I want humanity” by Mercy Geno Apachi, The Shy Poet

“Imagine you gathered all the courage and walked up to me? Me, that random girl sitting alone in the cafeteria
Me, that seemingly busy lady over a steaming cup of coffee at the cafe. Me, that swaggered teenager flocked by admirers, the envy of all. Imagine you just walked up to me and said “hi?” Imagine you gathered all the empathy and walked up to me?” Those are the first verses of a poem about solitude, depression, search for compassion.

Leggi il seguito

Ghana: Botsyo, the paralympic athlete who defied the stigma

Raphael Botsyo Nkegbe is a Ghanaian para-athlete. He made proud his country with many achievements and he is the first ghanaian para-athlete to qualify for the paralympic games in Tokyo 2020 (postponed to 2021). He won the T54 World Wheelchair 100m race with a new personal best of 14.22s at the Desert Challenge Games in Arizona, USA. In this interview he talks about committment in sport, struggle in life, and happiness with a fantastic family.

Leggi il seguito

“Weak Pillars of Sanity” a poem by Ronald K Ssekajja

“My doctor walks in, hands out her gloved limb tainted with the multicolored silencers that she wants me to pill-pop to steady my weak pillars of sanity.” Those are the first verses of Ssekajja’s poem which goes through mental distress, alienation from society, sense of non-belonging and -maybe – a guilt feeling towards a family which cannot really understand him and his mind. Ronald is writer and performer of both English and Luganda.

Leggi il seguito