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Retrospect of art as therapeutic tool

By Raymond Millagre Langa
Art remains therapeutic as it can enhance healing of the mind, body and soul. Every artist be it a musician, painter, poet or standup comedian or theatre actor, can manifest as a therapist through their work.

By acting as a therapist, it means that the artist becomes an agent of healing through the promotion of mental health wellness, which many people- even artists themselves need due to the economic crises and the pressures that have come as a result of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many people within the Zimbabwean society, especially the youth need therapeutic art which can help induce their ability to accomplish individualized goals such as the reduction of stress, to improve their mood in the wake of high unemployment, and to promote self-expression.

Music, for example, is one form of therapy that can help induce positive mental health in a person.

By listening to music, singing, playing instruments, or composing music, one can get inner peace.

This can help keep the mind to keep active and focused on productivity, and it can reduce negative risky behaviours that may lead to people engaging in nefarious activities such as drug abuse and harmful sexual activity.

Music as a form of therapy can be helpful to individuals psychologically, emotionally, physically, spiritually, cognitively and socially.

On the other hand, dance can be helpful as it is a form of exercise for example “Zumba” is entertaining, yet it is also a form of exercise and can make people happy.

Dance also helps to reduce muscle tension and induces good mental health because movement in the form of dance can assist to relieve tension and stress.

Dance also helps individuals in the development of very healthy coping skills which can be helpful in the management of thoughts and emotions.

It brings positivity, and therefore positive thoughts.

This kind of art stimulates the health of the body, mind, and the soul which creates individuals with increased motivation and vibrancy.

The therapeutic effects of music and dance are often obvious at funerals.

Generally, funerals entail mourning and sadness, but in Zimbabwe and other African countries friends, relatives and church mates attend funerals to sing and dance in order to promote healing of the family in mourning.

Instead of funerals becoming somber places, people sing, dance, and even do jokes in order to assist the mourners to understand that despite the pain of losing their loved ones, life must still go on.

The dance and jokes also assist the family in mourning not to focus more on the pain.  It is therapeutic.

In the context of Zimbabwe, there are many art galleries with paintings and in this regard visual arts have therapeutic effects too. Art galleries are usually quiet environments which are meant for the art critics to interpret the view of the artist or the hidden meanings in the art. The stimulation of the imagination is an important therapeutic effect in visual arts.

For the instigation of development to occur, especially with regards to technological innovations in the 21st century, context imagination remains critical as there is need for vibrant concepts that may utilise art in development and growth.

For instance, taking painting classes or practicing painting as a hobby also helps in the provision of an emotional release which allows a person’s mind to relax and let go of all the problems that contribute to a high stress level.

When people create something through painting, this stimulates the creative mind while in the process it also relieves the mental strain.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Tik Tok are full of individuals who record comedy skits, which also help in releasing tensions through laughter and humor.

The problem is that these platforms are also dominated by celebrities who insult each other  and some ‘foolish’ minds take this as entertainment.

In an environment characterised by limitation, real comedy helps in breaking the ice and setting people free.

Standup comedians remain central in stimulating the joy and laughter of the audience while in the process they use humor and satire in the stimulation of social change, and also use humor in social commentary.

Comedians actually are also a powerful tool in the enhancement of edutainment as a humorous message that engraves a sense of attracting listeners.  Theatre and film is also effective as a therapeutic tool that has the power to entertain, and relax tensions in the mind.

Artists are therefore therapists as they help in guiding the society and act as the voice of reason and conscience of the society.

Their main role is to motivate people, especially the youth that need to be guided in making the right choices.

Artists are role models from whom the audience learns from and looks upon for guidance. That is why it is important for the artists to be able to interact with their audiences in a positive manner. Many famous or “big” artists tend to ignore or hide from their audiences to maintain their celebrity status.

Interaction with audiences enhances the power of the artist as a therapist as people enjoy taking selfies with an artist they admire and like.

Arts based organisations also have a very critical role to play in the stimulation of mental health awareness to the artists, and also in this retrospect to the wider community as a whole.

Art is a tool of healing and it can be used too for the instigation of development and growth.

  • Raymond Millagre Langa is a musician, orator, poet, writer and founder of Indebo Edutainment Trust.  Follow Raymond Millagre Langa on Facebook, Instagram @Millagre Ray L, email:  indeboedutainmenttrust@gmail.com and millagrepapaito@gmail.com.

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