“The Arts Never Lie.” – The Ragamuffin Project

The Ragamuffin Project on Creative Arts Therapy:

“The arts never lie – the art we make acts as a mirror to our inner lives. As such, it goes to the source of our distress whilst enabling us to safely express chaotic and painful feelings. The process brings order, like making a home beautiful again after someone has broken in and ruined everything. As we begin to understand why we feel so low, or just repeat the same mistakes again and again, or think ourselves useless and worthless we can begin to choose something new for our lives. Each little revelation makes restoration possible. The restoration of hope, of self-belief, re-gaining balance and finding peace. Pain can be transformed into power – the power to change things for good.”

Artwork from the Ragamuffin Project, by artist Toha Hasan

The NCAS-I will have the privilege of spending time with The Ragamuffin Project in Cambodia very soon!  The Ragamuffin Project consists of a group of qualified, registered and accredited Arts Therapists working with statutory and voluntary sector organizations in the UK, Cambodia, Russia and Peru.  Please peruse their webpage here if you would like more information on their work.

(Quote and images from: http://www.ragamuffinproject.org/services/creative-arts-therapy/)

Art Activity: Making Worry Dolls

“The young artist told me with great confidence that she didn’t need to tell the worry doll her worries anymore, because the doll just knows them now.”
— Marlene von Friederichs-Fitzwater

Traditional Guatemalan Worry Doll

Handmade Worry Doll Created in Art Therapy Session

Traditional worry dolls are made in Guatemala and are thought to date back to Mayan times.  They are also sometimes referred to as trouble dolls.  Worry dolls or trouble dolls are believed to have the power to hold our worries.  For example, before bedtime, we might confide our worries in the worry doll, tuck him or her under our pillow, and get a goodnight’s rest as the doll holds all of our worries.  Even more, a worry doll can be a friend with whom we can share emotional pain.

What about worry dolls and art therapy?  The UC Davis Cancer Center suggests in art therapy sessions that children make worry dolls in the shape of their fears.  The doll is then slipped under each child’s pillow in the middle of the night, instilling in each child the belief that the source of worry is gone.  This activity of creating and using a worry doll is great because it combines so many things:  creative expression, acknowledgment of worries, friendship, trust, letting go of worries, and the therapeutic process.

As we mentioned in a previous post, the NCAS-I will be making worry dolls with the girls at Transitions and a local orphanage in Cambodia.

(Quote and 2nd image from: http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/welcome/features/20080716_cancer_coping/; other information and 1st image from: http://worries.co.uk/worry-dolls/)                              

A Look at Contemporary Artists in Cambodia

In hopes of offering sustainable art practices for participants and staff at Transitions, as well as for those working in the community, one of our intentions for the upcoming trip to Cambodia is to research contemporary arts and culture.  For now, we’re doing our research from home, searching the internet for inspiration…

An excerpt from a 2009 CNN article Cambodian art: Past to present describes the artistic community in Cambodia:

Cambodia, which lost an estimated one-quarter of its population or at least 1.7 million people — including an estimated 90 percent of its artists — under the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime, has a small but growing artistic community: there are some 50 practicing artists out of its 14 million people, according to Phnom Penh-based curator Erin Gleeson.

Here’s a look at the artwork of a few of Cambodia’s contemporary artists:

Sopheap Pich
"Cycle 2, Version 3," 2008, Rattan and Wire, from http://trfineart.com

Leang Seckon
"Cambodian Faces," 2010, Mixed Media on Canvas, from http://www.rossirossi.com

Chan Dany
"Kbach Phni Vois," Pencil Shavings on Wood, from http://www.10chancerylanegallery.com

Duong Saree
"Untitled," 2005, Oil on Canvas, from http://saklapel.org

A more recent article, Cambodia’s art revolution reaches global market, includes even more artists!

Looking forward to Cambodia

Passports. Flights. Immunizations. Student ID Cards. Visas. These are just some of the things on the long list of to-do’s (some of these thankfully are have-done’s) for the Cambodia trip. We will be in Cambodia working with Transitions from May 23-June 13. After many discussions with the staff and directors of Transitions we have a plan for the work we will be doing there. Here’s what we have planned…

Self Care Art Therapy Groups for Transitions Staff: these will focus on self care related activities with the staff from Transitions. Our self care activities will be designed to counter the effects of vicarious trauma, burn out, and compassion fatigue faced by so many care providers working with intense trauma.

NGO Workshops: These will offer basic information about art therapy and its value for working with trauma to staff from numerous local NGO’s. These particular NGO’s work primarily with sex trafficking.

Art Based Groups with the Girls from Transitions: These groups will be done with the girls going through Transitions rehabilitation program. Because we don’t believe it will be appropriate to engage in direct therapy these groups will incorporate art therapy activities that support group cohesion and offer artistic opportunities for building confidence and coping skills. Why not directly therapy? There are so many reasons for this- I’ll list a few although there’s much to say about each. 1. We are unfamiliar with the culture and the environment. 2. We are not there long enough to support therapeutic relationships. 3. Transitions focuses on empowerment and offers their own therapeutic services- our intentions are to collaborate on ways art therapy can be incorporated into this while holding the perspective that we have much to learn about what that might look like.

Group Mural: we will be working with Transitions participants and staff to create a mural at the new Shine School!

Case Consultations: These will be lead by faculty member Sue Wallingford and Transitions clinical staff. They will be a chance to directly consider Transitions’ participants’ treatments and ways art therapy may be valuable on an individual basis.

In addition to this we will be doing numerous other activities to learn about the realities of sex trafficking in Cambodia, and to learn about Cambodia culture. We will be blogging while we are there- make sure to check in on our work as we continue!

Restoring the Sacred Feminine

Can the “sacred feminine” be restored when she has been sold, imprisoned, bound,
drugged, beaten to submission, starved, and raped over and over again with out
any words of love or praise? Can a girl who has been thrown away, abandoned in
the worst of all possible ways ever be able to trust the loving gaze of another? Can
her body ever receive a warm embrace and gentle touch meant to soothe instead of
harm? Can a girl taught she is nothing other than a vessel to satisfy the desires of
men ever believe that that same body can hold a growing child, birth a new life and
sustain her with the sweet milk of her very own breast? Or has her body been so
ravaged by disease, mutilations, and botched abortions that the hope of ever having
her own child is nonexistent?

Abandonment and abuse of this kind is the most horrendous and inhuman act of all,
stripping the girl from the very essence of her inherent sacred being, her birthright.
Leaving behind an empty hopeless shell, a body that can’t even feel or experience
life’s real pleasures, a heart that has closed shut to love and trust, because that is the
only way she knows how to survive.

During the making of this project many people have asked me, “what will you be
doing in Cambodia with these girls.” The standard answer to this question is easy
to express. “We will be working with both the Transition’s clinical and training
staff to share art therapy skills to aid toward the healing of trauma and also to bring
awareness to the wide spread devastation that sex trafficking is leaving in it’s wake.

We have specific interventions that we will share with the staff and the girls in
order to empower them through the language of art. We will hopefully be able
to offer useful skills that will not only allow the girls to express the unspeakable
through imagery but also give them art skills that will instill a sense of pride and
accomplishment in making something beautiful and praiseworthy with their hands.

But really, I think our mission is to look for the lost connection to the sacred
feminine that I imagine we will see in the eyes of these girls. To do what we can do,
and have been trained to do as transpersonal therapists. And that is to just sit with,
hold the pain, offer a truly compassionate gaze letting them know we see the light in
them and trust it can burn strong again, ignited by the creative feminine, even if just
for a moment. In these moments we find mutual healing and deepened compassion, remembering we have all walked powerfully unique paths towards hope and wholeness.

– Sue Wallingford, NCAS-I Faculty Leader