Arts and Culture

THE ART OF HEALING

Pupils with special needs are creating beautiful works of art that are transforming hospital walls and uplifting patients

Lexxy Ruguru and Esther Oloo are busy sorting out pieces of broken tiles placed on a metal plate which they pass on to a group of pupils standing around a table.

The pupils will then stick the pieces, according to their colours, on a board resting on the table. As they deftly place the pieces on the board, the mosaic continues to take shape.

The pupils of Kenya Community Centre for Learning (KCCL) have been working on the Juhudi Children’s Club project for the better part of this year.

The project supported by Safaricom Foundation through Juhudi will see KCCL pupils make art pieces that will be used to decorate the walls at Mathari Teaching and Referral Hospital in Nairobi.

The director of Juhudi, Mr David Kimani, says they picked on Mathari because the institution has been shrouded in negativity for a long time.

“When we distribute pieces of art to Mathari, we will be hoping to deliver some warmth not only to the patients but also to members of staff and visitors alike,” he says.

Numerous studies have shown that better aesthetics in hospitals can make for happier – and healthier – patients.

KCCL, a school for children with disabilities, is among 20 institutions working on art pieces which will be distributed to former provincial hospitals and selected children facilities.

“We target schools for children with special needs because it gives them an opportunity to creatively contribute to the society,” says Mr Kimani.

Through the project, Mr Kimani says they hope to change the narrative that children with special needs cannot make any contribution in society. “This project gives children a chance to reach out and touch the lives of other members of the society.”

“The process of creating art has a therapeutic impact on both the creators and the patients in hospital.”

He says the process of creating art also has a therapeutic impact on both the creators and the patients in hospitals.

“Hospitals are homes to people undergoing treatment. The art pieces can help distract them from their pain. It also shows them that somebody somewhere is thinking about them.”

Ms Esther Kiura, an instructor at the school, says the children first do sketches of images that are then traced on the board. They then break used tiles into small pieces of different colours which they stick to a board using glue.

Ms Kiura adds that by using discarded tiles, the project is contributing towards a cleaner environment. She encourages people with tiles they don’t need to donate them to the school. The school’s principal, Mrs Esther Wamae, says the project has had such a positive impact on the pupils.

Some of the children with sensory problems have recorded marked improvement because working and feeling texture has sharpened their senses. “Creating the mosaic has been a form of therapy for such children.”

“The project has fostered social inclusion and teamwork among the students and members of staff because everybody wants to be part of the creative piece of art unfolding before their eyes,” she says.

“I have noticed some brightness on the faces of some pupils that was not evident before,” she says, adding that the project has brought out some unique traits in the children.

Some children have emerged as leaders in the way they allocate and delegate tasks. “The project also entails a lot of planning that has given the children a sense of working towards deadlines,” says the principal.

She hopes that in future, the school can turn the project into an income-generating activity through the sale of art pieces. She is also hopeful that some of the children will someday earn a living as artists.

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