Healing Power of Arts

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A view of participants at the Arts in Medicine workshop

Yinka Olatunbosun

The words of Pablo Picasso that were inscribed on the T-shirts sported by many in the hall read: ” Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

It was the opening ceremony for the Arts in Medicine Fellowship in Lagos last weekend, kicked off at the Sickle Cell Foundation wing of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba as artists and medical practitioners found a common ground in the power of arts to heal patients.

From cancer to accidents’ victims, the sterilised smell of hospitals is all too familiar. For those who have to live with terminal illness or incurable conditions, their humanity is under threat every day with the fear of the cold hands of death.

Thus, the Art in Medicine project is meant to bring some humanity where mere clinical proficiency had failed to heal.

The Founder and Executive Director of Arts in Medicine Fellowship, Kunle Adewale has been committed to this project since February 2018 as a multidisciplinary field to transform the healthcare experience through the arts.

The project integrates various art forms such as: storytelling, creative writing, music, dance and visual arts, into hospitals and healthcare communities in Nigeria, for therapeutic and educational purposes.

“Arts in Medicine is not a new phenomenon,” said Adewale while addressing the audience.

“The relationship between the arts and medicine dates back to the ancient Greeks, who believe that doctors and artists can both be healers and restorers of beauty and harmony of health.

The Greeks believe that healing potential is enhanced when doctors and artists share a common goal that is focused on nourishing the body and the spirit.

“Today, arts in medicine is recognised globally as a discipline. In the UK, the term arts in health is commonly used in healthcare communities, where the use of art and creativity is encouraged. Universities also explore medical humanities in various medical schools”, he said.

Arts in Medicine becomes such a successful intervention because of the positive feedback from caregivers. During a Skype video call from the UK-based Arts in Health practitioner and Director, Arts in Medicine Fellowship 2019 Cohort, Mrs. Gbemi Abimbola Alao, a clearer perspective of this collaborative project was sought.

She revealed that creative writing and storytelling are useful non-pharmacological intervention in medicine.

Citing music and percussion as her tested tools of social engagement, she encouraged the young fellows to explore the workshop in developing requisite skills that have positive impact.

“My intervention was an accident but it has taken over my life. This programme is like a dream come true. Allow your creative juices to flow as you engage with your tutors,” she declared.

A panelist’s session that followed was moderated by the poet and dental surgeon, Dr. Dami Ajayi and it featured the studio artist, Dr. Dotun Popoola; the Founder, Video Art Network (VAN), Mrs Oyindamola Fakeye, Dr. Masudat Mojeed-Bello, Mrs. Achenyo Idachaba-Obaro who spoke on the theme, “The Future of Healthcare Through the Lens of Arts.”

The maiden edition of Arts in Medicine Fellowship was witnessed by no fewer than 100 participants.

“We are glad to welcome another set of 2019 cohort which comprises doctors, nurses, dentists, occupational therapists, clinical psychologists, dancers, musicians, story tellers, writers, poets and painters and other clinicians.

“It is our pleasure to host another 100 students and professionals in arts and healthcare from Lagos, Abeokuta and Ibadan in Nigeria,” declared Adewale.

Meanwhile, the 13-week Arts in Medicine Fellowship for 2019 focuses on arts on prescriptions, clinicians in arts, drawing, painting, movement, music, mindfulness, new media, mental health, hospital beautifications, bed-side arts, bed-side music, creative writing, grant writing, story-telling, visits to nature, art galleries, art studios, Professionalism and Ethics of Arts in medicine, Hospital tour and installations, leadership, Mentoring and Management of Arts in Medicine Programs.

“We are honoured to have directors and lecturers, Center for Arts in Medicine, University of Florida as faculty members as well as crop of Professionals in mental health, performing arts, and visual arts from Nigeria and UK in this program and they will be engaging our fellows in 13 weeks.”

Arts in Medicine Fellows are expected to showcase their collaborative projects alongside other art works produced by patients, clinicians and artists in various hospitals and healthcare centres.

Six of the Arts in Medicine Fellows have been shortlisted to participate in the annual Arts in Medicine Summer Intensive Program in University of Florida to learn the best practices of and professionalism in Arts in Health.

Arts in Medicine Fellowship is bridging the gap between the healthcare community and art industry in Nigeria thereby creating opportunities for research, education and best practices locally and internationally.

2019 Arts in Medicine Fellowship is supported by Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria, Nigerian Healthwatch, Epic Africa, Federal-Neuro Psychiatric Hospital, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Association of Resident Doctors LUTH, National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, Sound Mind Africa, Video Art Network Lagos, Arts Health Early Career Research Network UK, Center for Arts in Medicine University of Florida, USA. It is endorsed by Nigerian Medical Association and Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture.

Speaking on the varied illnesses that Art in Medicine had been recommended for, the Director and Head of Clinical Services at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Dr. O.A. Owoeye said that both patients on admission and out-patients have benefited immensely from the project.

“It has usefulness in various aspects of medicine such as psychiatry; children with autistic disorders, severe depression, schizophrenia, drug abuse, Art in Medicine had been found to be quite helpful. In some individuals, creativity is nurtured with the aid of Arts in Medicine,” he said.