Connecting through Creativity in Papua New Guinea

Hello!

I was just part of a very cool adventure and I’d love to tell you about it...

So firstly, the adventure was on a YWAM medical ship in Papua New Guinea. This ship operates as a licensed medical provider in PNG, reaching extremely isolated villages, and the ship is run totally by YWAM volunteers. My mum is a nurse and wanted to go and help out on this ship, and I decided to tag along with my parents for the experience. This outreach was to the Western and Gulf provinces, and two days in central (Hula).

I was put in a community engagement team. The idea is that these teams are out connecting with kids in villages, playing games, providing some education about sanitation and water and health and different diseases, and getting to know what each village is about by spending time with people while the medical volunteers run clinics. The health clinics included immunisations, dental work, optometry, testing for tuberculosis, check ups for pregnant women, family planning and probably more stuff I don’t know about since I’m not medical.

There were some really cool ways that art played a big part of the trip from a community engagement point of view and here’s afew:

  1. Art for non-verbal cross-cultural engagement.

This one was a basic one: we had chalk, and most villages had some form of bark or timber flooring, and some villages had a school room of a sort. So our team would get down on the floor with kids and take turns drawing symbols and images together. For e.g. We drew basic triangle roofed houses, and kids would watch that and then draw their own version: a house on stilts up off the mud. We mirrored each others drawings and used humour to build on them. I noticed this process brought about something we talk about in the mental health field: a sense of mutual enjoyment and delight that is a shared experience, and good way to build rapport. We didn’t really need to speak, because our drawings and the experience of laughing together and sharing in this way was special and it was enough.







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2. Art For Documenting and Reflection

I had a little notebook and some watercolours, and each day I drew and painted something that stood out about each village we visited.


3. Art as part of the group experience for YWAM volunteers

Each day I painted, and this lead to people wanting to join in and I ended up using some butchers paper and setting up an art station for people to come and paint and reflect on their experiences. People painted squares of the paper and then on our celebration night the group posters were displayed. This was a really nice aspect of the group process; we enjoyed time together and it brought about a sense of satisfaction and was also a good activity for people to do during our evenings (we had some children on the medical ship too, and they also loved joining in with the creativity and contributed a lot haha)

Another trip highlight was getting to be a part of a longer term education program called Community Action Participation, which is designed to educate and empower people in their own village contexts to take ownership and be leaders in their community to create healthy environments. Part of this teaching is about worldviews and how our values lead to our behaviour. What struck me about this was the absolute sincerity of the participants and their genuine interest in learning. It really moved me. I also liked this program because it has follow up and continues to check in with these communities around implementing their ideas for positive change.

Here’s some paintings from the program:



Overall, I LOVED this trip: the mud (SO much mud), the way we were so welcomed (we even had our feet washed for us), the tiny insight into remote PNG communities and their struggles and hopes. It was also really nice to spend time with my parents on the trip. Most of all I love that God was there. He’s wherever people are, and I got the opportunity to have a small glimpse into what his kingdom is like through this experience. Jesus came to bring life to all of us, life to the full; including people who have never heard of wifi and are so far removed from our Western ways that we can’t really comprehend it. He cares equally about the most powerful person in the world as He does for the smallest, least valued child in a remote village. That is the beautiful levelling of the gospel. There is no hierarchy in the kingdom of God.

Why Art Therapy?

Why art therapy? What is art therapy? I come across many people who ask what I do, or what I studied, and when I tell them I am an art therapist they are regularly unsure of what that means.

This post will clarify what art therapy is (and isn’t) and I’ll make a case for why, if you’re considering seeking help, art therapy could be for you.

Art therapy can’t be discussed without acknowledging the fact that creativity has been a part of the human experience for millenia. From ancient indigenous symbolism and artwork as a long and important cultural expression, to ancient Pompeii where we have artwork and graffiti preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, humans have used the creative tools at their disposal to communicate and explore ideas for a looong time. This is still true of today: we find ourselves with the same ability and desire to weave creativity and expression into our daily lives.

The field of art therapy is a bit of a hybrid between the field of visual arts and psychology. It emerged in the 1940’s in UK and USA, and didn’t properly arrive in Australia as a ‘recognised’ field with a governing body until the late 1980’s. The governing body for art therapists in Australia, New Zealand and Asia is called ANZACATA, and there is much more information for your perusal about art therapy and the organisation here

Some things you may not know about art therapy:

  1. Art therapists undergo postgraduate training to be able to practice and register.

  2. Art therapy is not about how skilled you are at art (stick people are fine, I promise). It’s about meeting your therapeutic goals and addressing your concerns with a professional, and art materials are available and explored as an aide to meeting your goals. If you’ve ever had the experience that words might not be enough to capture your thoughts- maybe art therapy is right for you.

  3. Art therapy can look very different in a variety of settings, and depending on what the goals are. There is one-on-one art therapy, art therapy in groups, art therapy in open studio settings, in hospitals, or private practice, just for starters.

  4. Art therapy can be effective for many different people- children, people who struggle to communicate verbally, the elderly, those who have experienced trauma, adolescents struggling with identity issues, people who might benefit from another outlet besides talking, or anyone who needs some assistance in expressing themselves and working through issues.

  5. Art therapists don’t interpret or analyse your work, or read your mind. This is one aspect people commonly ask about, and I think the assumption is based on stereotypical depictions of psychoanalysis in pop culture. The reason art therapists don’t interpret your work is because different symbols and creative expressions are personal and could mean many different things. The job of the art therapist is to be with you in the process, to be curious, and to support you and help you meet the goals you have set out together.

Images used with permission. Artist: Elizabeth Bird.

Art therapy doesn’t offer a magical fix to issues. It provides a place where you can safely express yourself and perhaps even surprise yourself.

As an art therapist, I love the use of metaphor and symbolism to explain and describe emotions and experiences. I love the use of narrative and storytelling as a way to frame and understand experiences. I love giving people an outlet and being part of their journey. Creativity has always been part of my own journey and I believe in it’s qualities to take us as humans to a place outside of ourselves.

If after reading this you still have questions about art therapy, please feel free to get in touch. I’d love to hear from you!

I am moving into the private practice space and you can book in for an art therapy session with me here (Thursdays only): 07 3291 5963 or visit Gateway Counselling website for more info: https://gatewaybaptist.com.au/care/counselling-centre/

Watercolour Places

Travelling is good for the soul. I’ve had the best time in my travels and tried to be ‘in the moment’ while also capturing the vibe of each place before I left it.

Here are some of the places I managed to paint:

-London telephone booth

-Golden Fleece Pub York (This skeleton was sitting all by himself)

-Bath

Liverpool (Lambananas, The Cavern Club, so many museums, the Beatles hometown, nicest people i’ve ever met, and the best accent)

-Stonehenge

--Edinburgh Writers Museum

-Amsterdam- it snowed briefly!

-My relatives in Holland took me to a cheese shop

-East Berlin traffic man

-Belfast Peace Wall (SUPER interesting to learn the history of the troubles, and I got to sign the wall)

-Glasgow, Duke of Wellington Statue

-Edinburgh Castle

-Oxford

-Cliffs of Moher

Being away from Australia made me realise these main things: 1. Our fruit is the BEST. I missed it. 2. I can live without the QLD heat. For sure. 3. We have so much wide open SPACE. Even in our cities we have trees everywhere and wide roads and big houses. I’ve always taken that for granted.

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2019 Art Calendar

Hey Friends,

First off, Happy New Year!

I hope you got to spend time with people you love and reflect in a non-cliché way on things you’d like to continue or do differently going into 2019.

A friend of mine the other day mentioned they had gifted one of their friends my 2019 art calendar but couldn’t remember the meanings of the artworks when their friend asked about them.

SO with the admission of complete oversight on my part that I forgot to include any kind of longer meanings, I thought a quick post here with a list of the months and some vague explanations might be useful for those with the calendar hanging on their wall, and those of you who find the context interesting.

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Here goes:

January

‘Buildings To Live In’

Dr-Seuss inspired; this was an artwork created for an interactive art workshop used with primary school children- they made buildings that vaguely looked like the letters of their names.

February

‘Obscurity’

Inspired by my studies in art therapy. In the field of art therapy there’s an idea that “dialoguing” with an image (with an art therapist) can be a therapeutic process of learning and uncovering deeper meanings… to apply the principle to this drawing I’ve done I would ask the girl: who are you? Are you me? Why are you hiding? What are you holding? Where are you standing? What are you thinking? Giving the image a voice can reveal so much about yourself that you hadn’t even considered. I wonder if I was feeling a bit uncertain or clouded when I made this. I’m not sure yet.

March

‘Girl’s Search For Meaning’

The title was borrowed from a brilliant book I re-read in 2018 called ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ which deals with the horrors of the second world war and concentration camps, and Viktor Frankl’s conclusions and observations about suffering, the nature of humankind, and meaning making. It’s a short book, told as experiences. The other part of this drawing is general appreciation for reading and storytelling. And our universal quest for meaning in our lives.

April

‘The Mysterious Quest For New’

I was totally hitting a creative wall when I drew this. Always using the same art medium, always dealing with roughly similar subject matter. I was pretty ready for some sort of new, and fyi I did find it- I got into watercolours after this.

May

‘Cut Me Loose, Set Me Free’

The abstract concept behind this image is that getting overly attached to ideas of others or future plans, or romanticising things you’d like to happen doesn’t generally end well. In this particular instance having my heart strings ‘cut free’ was a really hard and also really necessary experience. I hated it, and I’m glad it happened.

June

‘A Pocket Full of Passionfruits’

The story behind this is my favourite. This writing was inspired when I invited myself to my grandparents place for dinner and at the end of the night, my grandad (who by the way is the most generous person I know) loaded up my jacket pockets with passionfruits he'd been given. It set off a spark in me thinking about all the ways we communicate that we love someone (and how we receive it back).

July

‘Illumination’

This was born from a research project I was completing for uni. It was a heuristic study (which means my body of artwork was at the centre of the study) and part of this style of research is called ‘illumination’ where ideas kind of spark off and it gets exciting.

August

‘Bureaucrats’

All I am going to say is I am not particularly appreciative of bureaucratic red tape that seems to make things much harder than they need to be.

September

‘The Window Family’

This was the subject of an art workshop with children where they created quite abstract characters that were based off my characters. What I found cool is that children were most interested in projecting their own ideas about roles and relationships onto my window family; I loved observing this. I thought I had left them fairly vague, I mean after all they have windows for heads, but apparently children knew straight away exactly who was who and what was going on in the drawing.

October

‘Marine Stadium’

The short description is I was trying to sketch designs suitable for printing onto fabric, and I was drawing this while I was on a boat trip with my family at Marine Stadium. It was super nice.

November

‘New Zealand’

I got to explore NZ on a road trip with some friends in 2018 and I really liked how quick and fun watercolours were. Something different. These were: Arthur’s Point, Queenstown, and a loft we stayed in at Burke’s Pass.

December

‘Recurring Archetypes’

This image is based on a research project for uni, similar to the theme of the July artwork. This image contains important characters from my body of artwork from the last 6 years- many of these little characters popped up heaps in my artworks for years before I even thought to ask who or what they were. These are dear to me, and represent things most important, including: the lightbulb being Jesus (light, and illuminating truth in my life) the little stick man being the Holy Spirit (I call him the maintenance man; he is always working in the background of my drawings/life), and the Heart and Brain characters who are always at odds and learning to get along. I cried while I was drawing this because I felt conflicted about examining them in my research project; like maybe they wanted to stay more hidden. But I love sharing them. The art making process reveals so much about us, and I love that.

So there you have it! 12 artworks and 12 rambling explanations for you! I hope if you have the calendar, you very much enjoy it this year, and if you don’t yet, you’re in luck! Seeing as it is already January and I happen to have a couple leftover, they are now on sale! Here :)

I am leaving Aus for awhile on January 10, so get your orders in before then. My online store will closed after that for a short time.

Peace.