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Lefika la Phodiso: Art as Trauma Therapy

Art therapy is an underdeveloped and often underappreciated profession. Yet, its ability to respond analytically and creatively to conditions in the community makes it a valuable tool in responding to social issues. Its practitioners believe that expressive arts therapy holds the potential to promote human dignity and improve quality of life.

Lefika La Phodiso (‘The Rock of Holding’) is Africa’s first psychoanalytically informed community art counselling training centre. The centre facilitates 16 arts counselling groups in Gauteng and Limpopo, collectively reaching almost 750 beneficiaries, receiving over 800 hours of intensive art counselling. Their mission is to build capacity for empathy by training groups of community art counsellors dedicated to psychosocial transformation through the creative arts and their vision is to provide safe spaces in which creativity and containment nourish emotional development and build healthy relationships. Established in 1994, in recent times, the centre has morphed from dealing with the impact and aftermath of apartheid to addressing issues such as xenophobic violence and reconciliation. Trained community art counsellors deliver direct art counselling and support to trauma workers and counsellors within the NGO sector, adults and children with HIV/ Aids, orphans and vulnerable children, abused children, autism, trauma, youth in conflict with the law and foster children in need of care.

Lefika has developed a model of psychoanalytically informed training that emphasises creative group-based interventions. The model is informed by psychoanalytic thinking as applied to community contexts and incorporates art making and creative expression within the counselling process. To bolster the practice of art therapy, the centre has increasingly shifted its emphasis to training counsellors. As part of their training, each student is required to set up a group within a community setting. The training is experiential and is supervised by psychotherapists from the Institute of Psychoanalytic Child Psychotherapy (IPCP) and the South African Psychoanalytic Confederation (SAPC). The centre has trained over 200 art counsellors and regularly exhibits work produced as a result of the counselling and hosts lectures and seminars.

Humbu Nsenga relates the experience of being an arts counsellor in the context of the centre to being something akin to surrogate parenting, with the centre providing a space for children to relate to adults in a different way. In an interview about the centre, she notes that the programmes take on an added importance considering the limited nature of arts programmes offered by the government school system.

Lefika la Phodiso plays a very important role in the community. Its weekday after-school programme teaches children a variety of art skills by working with them in a therapeutic fashion. Some of the disciplines include pottery, clay, art theory and printmaking. The organisation also runs a successful bi-weekly afterschool and weekend open studio programme for at risk youth and children with disabilities. The programme is designed to encourage thinking and cultivate creative capacity in a collaborative, supportive environment. The programme builds on school curriculums by using art to develop life skills and improve learning outcomes. The Open Studio also extends into holiday periods, when inadequate adult supervision often causes headaches for concerned parents. The school holiday programme, currently run in partnership with the Wits Arts Museum, involves week-long sessions with children from the surrounding inner-city neighbourhoods.

Kwanele Sosibo

Footnote

* Lefika La Phodiso is an arts organisation receiving significant project funding from National Arts Council for the 2014/15 financial year.

It is Africa’s first psychoanalytically informed Community Art Counselling training centre. Their mission is to build capacity for empathy by training groups of Community Art Counsellors dedicated to psychosocial transformation through the creative arts and their vision is to provide safe spaces in which creativity and containment nourish emotional development and build healthy relationships.

The Centre is awarded for a series of training resource books and accompanying activities showcasing previously disadvantaged South African artists and renowned arts activists. The project will also disseminate the Lefika model of training and practice.

For more information: http://www.arttherapycentre.co.za/

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