South Africa: University collaborations nurture connections through hybrid arts-based interventions
"Named Koko, Nqonqo, Knock knock! Arts for Life!, Rhodes University and Wits University held a series of arts-based interventions in March 2023 to create meaningful dialogue and connections to destigmatise student mental health issues. The intention was to create a wholehearted experience that moves from the projected to revelation to contemplation and celebration.
A new model integrating applied arts and arts therapies was developed to reach large groups of university students through a multidisciplinary intervention with additional art therapy and drama therapy groups for support. Two performing arts companies have been involved, including MEQOQO, a playback theatre-inspired collective which is chaired by Rhodes University alumna, Nine Magagula.
Selloane 'Lalu' Mokuku, a Lecturer at Rhodes University's drama department who has been very involved in the intervention, believes the Sesotho concept of letsema is helpful in a mental health wellness context. "Letsema is premised on the principles of participation," she said. "Here, one is invited to bring whatever they have to help in a particular venture. In our case, we believe the arts have an invaluable role to play. In the spirit of letsema, we have taken great care in implementing this intervention."
She explained that this hybrid intervention is the first to be pioneered in the country - that applied theatre and arts process have existed separately, but not together toward one identified issue of concern.
Rhodes University Student Wellness Unit and the Counselling Centre will help refer students to post-intervention support, both online and on-site. Short-term arts therapy groups will be facilitated by a qualified arts therapist (either drama, music, art or dance-movement) from April 2023.
To learn more about this pilot program, read the full article on Rhodes University