Overcoming post-conflict trauma with art: case studies from Africa

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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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”.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.

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