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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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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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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