A Space for Mental Health Awareness and Care

“Art is such a powerful tool, and I just realised that it is such an important practice that can heal souls….”

As the world reshapes itself from the pandemic, we sincerely hope that the recognition and prioritisation of mental and emotional wellness, as key to overall health, continues to grow.  It certainly has within TICAH.  The DreamKona artist community of the Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH) have been hosting forums to discuss mental and emotional wellness over the past three years.  Recently we took this a step further and hosted a Rika (“peer”) art Residency with artists to explore mental and emotional wellness through body mapping.

TICAH has been hosting body mapping workshops for years, mostly with survivors of discrimination and trauma (PLWHIV, LGBTIQ and torture survivors).  This art therapy technique walks participants through the creation of life-size self-portraits on which they paint their experiences of hardship and healing.  The recent residency has combined this with its work on mental health to offer a deeply personal exploration of self, emotions, connection, physical journeys and dreams.  It has been an impactful and connecting experience that we intend to continue and offer to artists and other communities.

Here are some reflections from the participants:

Ehoodi Kichapi, Painter

“I loved getting together with different kinds of artists to talk about ourselves and not what we do. People talk so much about what we all do and all the external things but never about ourselves.  I came to realise that as different as we all are, a similarity we all have is that we don’t look inside that much and we hardly ever talk about it.

From the drawing exercises [where participants were asked to answer deep questions about themselves and their feelings and difficulties] you could see people reflecting on themselves in interesting ways; it was like someone meditating but being able to see what is happening to them and their minds and bodies during the meditation.  It’s one thing for people to talk about themselves, but speech and drawings together are more powerful than just speech alone.

For me it was difficult to do the drawing exercises because this wasn’t about the craft part of art, but it was about how I feel and putting that into drawing was difficult for me, but it made me more conscious of myself, even to today.  

For the first time I got an audience with people who would actually listen to me, hear me, connect and appreciate what my experience has been.  When you are able to share what you are experiencing, these challenges feel like they are already half solved.  Things don’t feel so heavy.  When I shared I felt like I wasn’t alone in this experience anymore.  It’s special for someone to be able to share the dark times of their lives with people who are interested to hear.”

Lydiah Dola, Recording and Performing Artist

“I received my invitation to attend the Body Mapping Rika Residency with excitement and a lot of anticipation for good energy. Indeed, that is what I got.

In an environment full of color and in the splendor of creative minds, different artists from all walks of life gathered in what I would call ‘The Artists Safe Dorm.’ Here, without shame or fear, we were able to discuss our mental health status as we focused on knowing our internal and external health with an aim of balancing the two.  We did this through sketches of our own journeys in life. We also designed and created our individual body maps as a way of exploring how our mental health manifests inside our bodies.

The beauty of this was that, we didn’t have to be professional painters to do this, even though we had professional painters in the house.  I had a beautiful time exploring my other artistic side, which I learned could be painting. All the works were so beautiful on the last day when we displayed the body maps.  Indeed, Art is such a powerful tool, and I just realized that it is such an important practice that can heal souls. I left the therapy feeling so refreshed and especially after the last day’s morning yoga (By the way, it was my first time to do yoga). I am now tackling my daily hustles of life more courageously. ‘You must gain balance within yourself before you can bring balance to the world,’ Guru Pathik.”