‘That art piece could heal you’
In most homes, offices, public buildings, recreation centers and churches you find different works of visual art in the form of painting, sculpture, illustration, backdrop and blind. Apart from being objects of beautification and store of wealth, can these collections also serve as therapy to the viewers? Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME examines the therapeutic power of art in Kent Onah’s paper, Art Therapy: Process and Production, presented at Life In My City Art Festival in Enugu.
Unlike drugs, the therapeutic essence of art (music, drama, drawing and paintings) can be realised effectively through the creation of a natural environment or activity that can generate healing for the body and soul. Art therapy engages the whole being and the healing one gets is not like drugs. It is an experience beyond drugs, as its curative healing is holistic.
Interestingly, colour therapy is one major aspect of art therapy, which was practised by ancient Egyptians by bouncing light off prisms and using the seven spectrum colours to heal the body, mind and spirit. Ancient civilization of India and China understood the negative and the positive, the stimulating and depressing effects of colours on human body and used them effectively to rejuvenate and heal. Some notable physicians like Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Celsus, Galen, used colours to treat their patients. Each colour has its own unique effect which can be used for healing and restoring body’s natural balance and harmony.
A senior lecturer at the School of Art and Design, Auchi Polytechnic, Kent Onah observed that when colours are properly used as therapy, they could promote a feeling of well being, energize the body and stimulate the mind. He noted that some colours are effective in raising spiritual consciousness while others develop intuitive powers, which could enhance confidence levels and self worth, or influence the feeling of love and hate, and that others could directly affect energy levels in people exhausted by chronic illness.
Speaking at the festival conference session, Onah who described art therapy as alternative to drugs, said it is also a process that helps people of all ages to express and understand feelings, interest, relationship, and self–perceptions through art activities. He added that It is useful in treating emotional trauma and grieve, as a supplement to pain and symptom management, to address psychological distress and encourage self-growth and actualization.
In his paper, Art Therapy: Process and production, the art teacher though identified eight key colours with which therapeutic powers of art could be realized, explained that the methods of applying art therapy for healing are varied and dependent not only on the therapist’s preference but, most importantly, on the clients level of receptivity. “It is most important that the therapist properly evaluates the individual who is been treated. We are each unique in our way. Therefore, our needs are different and our responses vary accordingly. So one must learn to evaluate each problem and then apply the tools that will help in that particular situation,” he said.
Art therapy, according to him, brings creativity into places like hospitals and nursing homes, places that could use other forms of healing rather than just the medical or psychiatric. He wondered why developments in the study of art therapy should not change altitudes of Nigerians toward creative arts.
On the key colours and their therapeutic powers on man, Onah described red as an energizer that stimulates the red blood cells and revitalizes the body. He however noted that the physical stimulation that red offers is not comfortable for everybody, because for some, it could energize in a positive manner and bring about increased circulation in the body whereas for others it might be over stimulating, harsh and even offensive. Yet, it is good for treating arthritis, waist pain, tiredness and depression, anemia, low blood pressure among others.
He said green colour is nature’s master healer as it brings rest, tranquility and peace to the soul. He said as a balancer, it could be used for healing in situation where there might be doubt as to the appropriate colour energy needed. “Colour therapist can use it for treating ulcer, boils, blood pressure, nerves, tension, breast cancer, etc” he added.
Onah who teaches in an art school famous for its Colour Masters phenomenon, described the healing attributes of other colours thus:
“Orange: Warm and invigorating: A nourishing colour, if used properly can revitalize like red. It is good for treating constipation, for cleaning mucous and in breaking up calcium deposits. It can relieve repressed anxieties and fear. It is good for fertility and kidney problem, impotence, self- esteem etc.
Yellow: Stimulating emotions and intellect: It has three fold functions; it can stimulate the nervous system, it deals with emotion and it activates the mental faculties. If used properly it can stimulate the brain cells and will give the ability to study, analyze and be the thinker, good for treating depression, nerves, liver and spleen, slow learning, stomach disorders, ulcer, diabetes etc.
Blue: For tranquility and meditation. This colour represents spiritual awareness, feeling of God-centeredness, it also signifies coolness, calmness, and inner peace. The blue person appreciates the beauty of life and nature. If people need to look back into the past, this colour will help lead then there, as it is a reflective colour. It can help people step ahead on the spiritual path. It is necessary, treating blood clots, bladder infections, burns, fever, ulcer, high blood pressure, internal infections, sore threats headache, ear infection, mental disorder etc.
Indigo: The colour for the third eye. It is associated with intuition. It has a rather mysterious connotation because it leads into the depths of ones being. It is associated with wisdom. It can be used for treating conditions of eyes, ears and sinus cataracts, nose bleeds and dry coughing, epilepsy, lack of motivation, mental and nervous disorders, problems with meditations, blindness, bad dreams, etc.
Violet: For spiritual dimension: It is a colour of very high spiritual vibration. Some of our greatest artists and musicians have been inspired by the use of the violet rays. It is said that Leonardo da Vinci meditated under violet rays falling through stained glass windows. Wagner, when composing the Parsifal music, had violet drapes around him, thus absorbing these extremely high spiritual vibrations. It is called the crown colour. It is necessary for treating baldness, cataracts, cerebrospinal, meningitis, cramps, epilepsy, eyes, insomnia, mental, nervous disorders, nervous, or irritated state of mind etc.
Brown: For information to other parts of the body. It is a colour for instinct, resonance, rhythm, duality, and healing. It is good for healing both physical and spiritual illnesses.”
To Onah, a painting could serve multiple purposes while the painter could become a therapist and his painting a tool for therapy. He however lamented that much has not been done in this direction, saying that tremendous opportunities exist for painters who are willing to develop themselves and use paintings as tool in colour therapy to serve the best interest of man.
But he stressed that art therapy would encourage increase in studio practice among visual artists, enable artists to diversify as well as create avenue for artists and other related professionals to have a steady income. More importantly, art therapy, he said, would create platform for collaboration between artists, medical doctors and psychologists in treating of patients.