Thursday, January 26, 2012

Unfinished Business

The latest Stephen Lewis Foundation newsletter describes arts therapy in Africa. I was very moved to read how one artist Mbulelo Duma works with children who have suffered in the Aids epidemic.

We also use clay to help children deal with what we call 'unfinished business.' With the clay, they make objects depicting the things that they would have liked to have said to their late parent, and then they use their voice, saying, "I would have loved to have a bicycle," for instance. Then they would also use the voice of the deceased saying what is it that they think would have been their response. So in that way, we give them an opportunity to say the things that they didn't get to say, and to get the responses that they didn't get while the person was alive.

I think clay can also be helpful in that it is a form of expressing anger without hurting others. For example, children make objects that have made them angry or that represent a situation in which they were angry. Then they work in pairs to share about what is it that had made them angry. Through the clay activities we help them realize that anger is a feeling that is worth talking about, but what matters most is the expression of their anger. After that we talk about what other ways they think might be helpful to express their anger without hurting themselves or hurting others.

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