-penned by board member Mrs Alo Pal
Early morning first they wet the patch of road in front of their houses, then make little dots in equidistant geometric patterns and then with a deft hand, plunge regularly into the box of white powder they connect the dots and lo you have a pretty fresh white Kolam against the darkened tar or mud at the entrance of each house at the start of the day.
I’d like to believe those moments spent alone in this brief artistic exercise is something the ladies look forward to. Life must surely take over once they cross the threshold back into their homes.
For, when Manuel, our in house Intermodal Expressive Art therapist, worked with our women beneficiaries, artistic expression was not spontaneous.
When he finally got the ladies to pick up the colours and express themselves they delved inside and expressed their sorrow. Art, it seemed wasn’t that brief moment in the morning of creativity and beauty, it took them instead to a space of pain.
When he tried meditation techniques that quiet collected moment too overwhelmed the women with tears. It was clear that a change in approach was needed and after consulting his trainers Manuel evolved new techniques and approaches to direct the women to positive memories and thoughts.
The main pivot of this particular form of expressive art is to enable the person to focus on values and what is valuable, Manuel got them to focus on the positive, their childhood, the happy memories of childhood, bereft of the strappings of stress and worry of their present lives.
And slowly the women learnt to use the time to resource from a well of positivity. They learnt the value of pausing a moment for themselves in their homes, away from their routines. He gave them art and craft kits so they could spend some time at home doing something positively engaging and fun.
The next step in this process will be to try and get them to express their thoughts writing, perhaps writing poetry even. It may well be difficult for them to write, but again the process of sourcing from the positive and expressive will start a healing process.
Manuel has been consistent about wanting to involve the fathers in every aspect of his work. One can only imagine the challenge to get daily wage earners and manual workers to sit quietly and ultimately find value in picking colour and expressing thought in form. For the men, they too had carefree moments in childhood and they too needed a healing touch to help them cope better and with positivity in their lives.
Too often mental health is ignored and too often art is brushed aside as the luxury of the rich, but that is not true. Everyone somewhere is broken, hurting, longing to heal and everyone should have access to guided artistic expression to cling to the values and what is valuable in life.