Art has the power to heal and transform individuals and communities, particularly in post-conflict settings. In times of conflict and violence, individuals and communities are often left with deep emotional scars that can last for years. In post-conflict settings, the healing process can be slow and difficult, but one powerful tool that has been proven to help is art. In the aftermath of war and violence, art can provide a means of expression, a source of solace, and a catalyst for reconciliation. Creative expression can help individuals process their trauma, connect with others, and begin to imagine a better future. In this blog post, we will explore the healing power of art in post-conflict settings, and look at real-life examples of how creative expression is helping communities move forward.
Art therapy is a well-known and effective method of using art to help people cope with trauma. Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves the use of art materials and creative processes to explore feelings, thoughts, and emotions. It provides a safe space for individuals to express themselves without using words, which can be particularly helpful for those who have experienced traumatic events.
One example of art therapy being used in a post-conflict setting is in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Music Room project used art as a means for healing. Sabina Šabić, program manager at the Sarajevo War Theatre (SARTR), started the Music Room project at the Dom Bjelave orphanage in Sarajevo. Inspired by the “El Sistema” project, an initiative in Venezuela offering creative ways out of poverty, Sabina set out “directly making a change through cultural activity.” Another example of Bosnia is the Mostar Rock school (MRS) that was founded in 2008 in collaboration with Dutch NGO Musicians Without Borders. There were 16 students in the first class. Students take lessons in guitar, drums, bass, keyboard or vocals and play together in bands.
Another example of the healing power of art in a post-conflict setting is the work of the Rwandan artist Emmanuel Nkuranga. Nkuranga was only 13 years old when the Rwandan Genocide began, and he lost many of his family members and friends. In the aftermath of the genocide, Nkuranga turned to art as a way of processing his trauma and expressing himself. Today, he is a successful artist whose work has been exhibited around the world.
Nkuranga’s art often focuses on themes of reconciliation and healing, and he has worked with various organizations to promote peace and reconciliation in Rwanda. One of his most notable projects is the Kurema, Kureba, Kwiga (Create, See, Learn) project, which provides art workshops to vulnerable children in Rwanda. The project aims to help children build resilience and develop positive coping mechanisms through art.
Visual art is another form of art that has been used to promote healing and reconciliation in post-conflict settings. In Cambodia, for example, the Khmer Rouge regime, which lasted from 1975 to 1979, left a legacy of violence and trauma that continues to affect the country today. However, through art, people in Cambodia have been able to process their experiences and work towards reconciliation.
One example of visual art being used to promote healing and reconciliation is the work of the Cambodian artist Vann Nath. Vann Nath was a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime. His graphic depictions of the horrifying torture at S21 were painted in the years after his release. The Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal, which was supported by the UN and held hearings in Phnom Penh starting in 2007, used Nath’s paintings as evidence in the prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch’s conviction.
Another example of the healing power of art can be seen in the work of the organization Artolution. Founded in 2009, Artolution is a global nonprofit that uses art as a tool for social change. They work with communities around the world to create public art projects that promote healing and empowerment.
One of Artolution’s most successful projects has been in the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan. Working with local artists and refugees, Artolution has created murals and installations that reflect the experiences and dreams of the refugees. The art has become a symbol of hope and resilience in the camps, bringing people together and giving them a sense of purpose.
In an interview with Global Citizen, Max Frieder, the co-founder of Artolution, explained the impact of the project on the refugees. “The work that we specifically do with Artolution is really on a collaborative basis — so trying to get different people from different parts of the world or from a single community to be able to work together,” he said. “There are a couple of different ways [art can alleviate poverty]. One is through education, and a lot of the work that we do is using the arts as a mode of education, of literacy acquisition.”
The aftermath of conflict can leave individuals and communities struggling to rebuild their lives. Trauma, grief, and a sense of disconnection can make it difficult to move forward. However, creative expression through art can offer a powerful tool for healing and rebuilding. In post-conflict settings, art can provide a safe space for individuals to process their emotions, express themselves, and connect with others.
In conclusion, the healing power of art in post-conflict settings is undeniable. Art provides a means for individuals to process their trauma, express their emotions, and work towards a sense of catharsis. It can also be used to promote reconciliation, facilitate dialogue, and bring communities together. The real-life examples discussed in this blog post demonstrate the transformative impact that art can have on individuals and communities. The healing power of art is being harnessed around the world to help communities move forward. It is important that we recognize and support the role of art in post-conflict healing, and continue to empower individuals and communities to use creative expression as a means of healing and hope. By embracing the healing power of art, post-conflict communities can begin to move forward towards a brighter future.
About the author:
Country: North Macedonia
School: NYU Abu Dhabi
Juror in Giffoni Macedonia: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020
International exchange within Giffoni network: Italy 2018
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