Post Earthquake Art Therapy
The Story of Art Therapy
Kailash is an artist. When you are introduced to him he will say “hello, my name is Kailash, I am an artist.” You are left in no doubt. An artist he most certainly is, in demeanour, in the passion with which he talks about teaching others, creating works that speak to people and about letting the world know that Art can help change it.
When the earthquake struck Nepal in April 2015 Kailash the passionate advocate went to work on behalf of the children who saw no longer joy and play around them but devastation, pain, anger and loss. Parents lost, homes destroyed, and traumatised young children with no way of expressing how they felt about what had happened to them. No way to knowing how to grieve, be angry, be sad, be confused.
And so Kailash the passionate advocate, whose own home was damaged in the quake, not destroyed but damaged enough to warrant careful attention, the sort of attention that you or I, the average Westerner, would devote all of our energies to rectifying, went to work setting up a makeshift Art Therapy Centre next door to his damaged home, in the village of Gairimudi and invited the children around abouts to come and draw, sketch and paint about how they felt.
He started with not much more than paper, pencils and a bit of paint. He found some tents to shelter them, the children commenced to draw and paint and suddenly talent burst forth, children drawing their houses that were now rubble, forcing smiles onto paper that they desperately wished for, sitting in classes drinking in every word Kailash had to say to them, knowing that this man was showing them a way out, sketching new found ideas, such as wanting an earthquake to come when their exams were on, quirky and mischievous as kids will always be.
Ernest longings broadcast on small scraps of paper imploring the world to pray for Nepal, wherever you might find your God. Smiles returned, messages of hope amidst the despair, kids now proud of their work, parents, who turned to the art therapy sessions, wondering why the kids were so enthusiastic, proud of their kids, new projects talked about, plans hatched.
They built a wall to display the work because it’s one thing to express how you feel, it’s another to allow others to see it. They have made greeting cards, with the childrens art work on the cover, for Kailash and for people like me to sell. The work goes on.
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It needs to be pointed out, before the story of Giftland, Lokta paper and the generosity of my Nepali hosts is mentioned, that some things are done differently in Nepal. We in the West could learn a thing or two from them.
My final day of visiting people affected by the April 25th earthquake made for an uneasy embrace of what it means to be denied a Western middle class upbringing. I had one, these delightful children have an upbringing only in the sense that they are not living on the street.
The village of Barabesie, in the region of Sindapowlchuk, north east of the capital Kathmandu, was at the epicentre of the April 2015 earthquake. The village was flattened, almost destroyed. It’s people are resilient, they are rebuilding.
A medievil village popular with tourists flattened by the April 2015 earthquake.
The first thing that springs to mind when one sees devastation like this is how hopeless the task of rebuilding appears to be. It’s not just the homes and the temples, it’s the lives, particularly in light of the knowledge that there is no one to help, no insurance and a mere token of government assistance. It’s left to those around you, your neighbours, your relatives, your village folk. In other words, your community.
Jay Nepal, which means “Victory Nepal”, is a motley arrangement of Nepalis and foreign backpackers who have banded together to help rebuild, or more correctly, in the first instance anyway, demolish Nepal.