The just-concluded group exhibition with the theme, ‘We See; We Dream; We Hope’ has been a showcase of 15 Nigerian artists on a mission to support mental health patients. The show which ran from October 22 to 25 is an initiative of TOAH, a non-governmental organization that derives its acronym from ‘The Art of Healing.’ It was done in partnership with Alliance Francaise, Lagos and held at the Mike Adenuga Centre, Ikoyi.
Curated by Tony Agbapuonwu, the show features the works of Akanimoh Umoh, Deborah Segun, Edozie Anedu, Gerald Chukwuma, Kelani Abass, Kwadwo Asiedu, Nengi Omuku, Niyi Okeowo, Nzubechukwu Ozoemena, Olayemi Fagbohungbe, Olumide Onadipe, Richardson Ovbiebo, Roanna Tella, Tega Akpokona and Yadichinma Ukoha-Kanu.
Earlier, the project took off at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) with mural painting towards transforming the interiors of the psychiatric ward for a better healthcare ambience. Four psychiatric wards were given a complete makeover as some of the patients and staff engaged in the therapeutic experience. Hence, the exhibition which follows this mural project is in itself a fundraiser to enable the project completion at LUTH as well as other health institutions in Africa.
TAOH Founder, Ms. Nengi Omuku gave a forecast on the impact of this laudable art project.
“The art workshops at LUTH demonstrated the positive impact of artistic and creative expression on mental health. This programme of work will go on to inform the murals that are created and ensure the new environments have a relationship with the people who encounter them. We are targeting the minds of mental health patients through what they see by creating an environment that helps them heal,’’ she said.
Kwadwo Asiedu, the Project manager for the TAOH project and a participating artist revealed the impact of this art project on mental health.
“One of the things that this project has revealed to me is how therapeutic it can be for mentally unwell patients. This is a great opportunity to explore that. It’s been a highly enlightening experience because as I mentioned earlier. This is a great opportunity to assess and document how art can work as a form of therapy in these institutions,’’ he said.
When asked how to push the conversations around mental health beyond the exhibition walls, he let his witty side kick in.
“Speaking of walls, I think the idea is to break down the walls. Most of the conversations around mental health are confined within the homes. If they have a relative that is mentally unwell, people normally shy away from talking about it openly. The individuals that are going through this state are often the ones that get marginalised and I feel that it doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Yes, you can protect their individual right to dignity and privacy, but they are still a part of the family and are still your friends and should be treated as such,’’ he said.
The show was a belated celebration of World Mental Health Day on October 10 in honour of more than 116million people estimated to be living with mental health conditions across Africa. Reportedly too, the pandemic had contributed about a 25% global rise in depression and anxiety.