Mami Wata: Heal the Children of War Through Art – Entry 12

The Brushstroke of Freedom Lives On – Entry 12

As the red-raw earth of Padertown trembled beneath the celebrating feet of former child abductees, African drumming lit the flame of both traditional and modern dance while shooting stars painted the perfect evening across the sky. After one month of sharing the power of art with the beautiful souls of ‘Friends of Orphans’ the time has come for the Mami Wata Art Therapy Project to move on to Lira, but not before tears of joy colored love into the life-times of trauma effected by the horrors of war. “A shadow is an area where direct light from a light source cannot reach due to obstruction by an object.” In Northern Uganda the war has served as this object that obstructs the light from penetrating the hearts of its victims… or has it? Although some of the most horrific stories you could ever imagine have been shared with us, they only enhance the power of the magnificent stories of courage, triumph and love in the face of all odds. Many friends in this region have been forced to torture and murder fellow members of the community… and yet, light beams from their eyes like the innocents of a new born baby. They have replaced the internal black hole of guilt with an unbreakable devotion to love.

The students who struggled with loneliness and isolation before our arrival stepped into the classroom of imagination and found an expansive, expressive vocabulary awaiting their friendship. Art therapy offers a bridge between the internal and external worlds and is exclusive to none. “I am so grateful that we were not divided based on skill level, and we were all given an equal chance to learn to draw.” As the days grew near departure our pupils stood in their power and expressed what art has done for them. “I am going to have a hair salon and I can now paint the walls with beautiful pictures for people to feel happy when they get their hair done…” a young mother of four expressed. “When I paint I feel my mind go silent and I feel peaceful,” a former rebel of the LRA echoed the comments of countless students. “I am an orphan, but when I come to art class it feels like you are my father and the ladies are my sisters,”said Peace, a mother of two who gave birth to her first at 13 years of age. Peace is one of the most loving, giving human being all of us have ever met. There was even an elderly priest of an unknown age who attended our class every day; his art reflected the war with every brushstroke and he was overjoyed to have access to the techniques and materials that helped liberate the vivid memories that haunted his sleep. Thomas, the literacy teacher, attended nearly every art class ready to translate, participate, and learn. He is a 27 year old with three children, a cozy home on the outskirts of town and papaya trees. His brother was tortured in unthinkable ways and he himself escaped the ranks of the LRA twice. “I will do everything I can to ensure that art therapy continues here. It really works. I have seen so much change in the students and it makes me so happy! PAINTING SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS!” He shared with an explosive heart opening chuckle. We love you Thomas and all of the amazing teachers who were disguised as our students =). We were able to leave over a hundred students a pack of colored pencils, paintbrushes and a watercolor set. We also gifted six months worth of art supplies for Thomas, John Bosco and the next intake of students effected by the war.

With only one counselor responsible for 300+ students it is not physically possible to give each soul the attention needed; however, with the implementation of art therapy we can offer a positive outlet to all and use this course work to identify those who are in an unstable state and are in great need of further psycho trauma therapy. Many government and non-government programs alike focus on the physical health and protection of populations at risk, and yet the psychological health is rarely addressed. The Mami Wata Art Therapy Project was approached by an international organization called VSO and was asked to remain in Uganda where a budget line for necessary supplies, living expenses and domestic travel costs would be provided with the intention of creating a sustainable art therapy program that could eventually span across the much needed nation. This is a great honor and we are in further discussion exploring the options of creating training courses and workshops for local counselors in order to touch as many as possible. If anyone you know is an art therapist and is interested in volunteering in this incredible cause, please have them write me at bswatez@gmail.com.

P.S. The radio came to interview the students of art and their voice of inspiration will soon air across the northern regions of Uganda.
With love and gratitude for all our family and friends, to Thomas and family, John Bosco, Sylvana and Elma, Godfri, the staff of Friends of Orphans, Rose, Peace, Simon Peter, Jobs, Henry, Jimmy and all of the STUDENTS THAT HAVE TOUCHED OUR LIVES FOREVER… Jua Lekundu, Breathe World Wide, Savoir Faire, Chartpak, Second Ascent, and everyone who supported this project… AND I give endless gratitude for the participation of Seka, Emma G, and Emma Leah during this segment of the project. YOU ROCKED IT! We will never forget you PADERTOWN! Thank you! I am now taking the Mami Wata Art Therapy Project to Lira, Uganda, where the Children of Peace enthusiastic welcome the project! =) STAY TUNED