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Art Therapy in Africa
by Lalita Thompson



Editor's Note from Karen Adler: I studied Transpersonal Art Therapy with Lali. She's one of those young people I greatly admire and who give me profound hope for the future of our species.

One of the many beauties of art therapy is that the arts are universal, they know no race or cultural boundaries and can speak of an individual's world in ways which words often can't. This is Lali's story of her time as a volunteer creative arts facilitator with Orphfund in Africa.


"Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living." Miriam Beard

I initially went to Sierra Leone with *Orphfund as part of a team to build an orphanage using the earth bag building technique. This technique was chosen in order to make the children's villages more enviro-friendly and to develop sustainable practices and facilities within them - e.g. compost toilets, recycling, permaculture gardens etc.

I participated in the building work but also travelled to various Orphfund orphanages around Sierra Leone facilitating creative arts workshops and mural painting with the children. I then travelled independently to Tanzania & Kenya as a volunteer creative arts facilitator, working with children in schools, orphanages and care facilities. I worked with orphans, school students, blind children and severely disabled youth.

The workshops were EXTREMELY well received at every location. This prompted me to consider starting an organisation which could facilitate more such work as well as delivering a diverse array of creative arts services, facilities, resources, connections, education and opportunities to both children and adults who would otherwise not have access to such services. This plan is still brewing as I continue my studies - I am half way through a BA International Aid and Development. Ideally, I want to combine my BA with my art therapy and design qualifications as well as Permaculture to create something holistic, community devised, based and run, effective, fun and inspiring.

I want my poem to focus on what I gained from the work rather than what I supposedly gave. I set out on my trip knowing I would learn but I got way more positive energy flowing back to me than I ever expected - a healing of my own.

* Orphfund [www.orphfund.org] is a volunteer based organisation helping children around the world, working within remote communities in some of the world's poorest countries. Our projects aim to reach out to vulnerable children who have been abandoned or orphaned and help provide them with shelter, education, care and support. We run grass roots, self-sustaining, community projects that provide shelter, nutrition, health care, support, education and training, ensuring all children have a happy and bright future. Being purely volunteer based we are proud to ensure that 100% of any donation will reach children living in poverty.

 Art Therapy in Sierra Leone.

Pack all your paintbrushes
Your pastels, your pens
Set out on a journey
To adjust the old lens.

From the moment of touchdown
You´re never the same
A world so far removed
From that which you came.

Yet human still.

It takes hold of your soul
It strangles your spine
It swallows you whole It fucks with your brain
And slaps you around
Until finally …
A new strength is found.

Apprehension still lingers
Like a thief in the night
But it could never compete
With the strength of your light.

Air thick with insects
They feed on your wine
The breeze exists not
At the end of the line.

The children are singing
So gracious they be
They fear not fear
For their spirits are free.

Such freedom, such joy
Sparked by one single stroke
Splashes of epic colour and story
Words fail to invoke.

You learn and you teach
You teach and you learn
The spark has been lit
And the fires they burn!

Solar plexus open
Hearts are alight
Integration and growth
Delicious insight.

So sweet it would be
To have the cake and the spoon
To linger for longer
Welcome the next heavy moon.

But... The other world beckons
You must leave this place now
Pack up your trinkets
Pull your hood to your brow.

The dense human spirit
Begs one to stay
But the West Wind it whispers
¨Go forth on your way.¨

I must continue my journey
But fear not, for you see
Your colour and story
Come from you not from me.

Say what of this journey?
Say nothing at all
When next the wind whispers
Answer the call.

©Lalita Thompson, 2014



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About the Author
I am half way through a BA International Aid and Development. Ideally, I want to combine my BA with my art therapy and design qualifications as well as permaculture to create something holistic, community devised, based and run, effective, fun and inspiring.



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