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Tapping Art's Power to Heal Wounds and Open ‘Spaces of Connectedness'

·2 mins

Using her arms as a makeshift clapboard, a woman in a black hijab and black-and-white caftan clapped her hands together, signaling the beginning of the rehearsal. The other amateur Thespians, wearing comic stick-on mustaches, moved to their marks, improvising a scene in a women’s beauty salon where one patron’s hair is accidentally dyed blue.

As the scene ended, all the women were in hysterics, ribbing each other over how they could better play their parts next time. Scenes like this are common at the Kuluhenna Creative Workshop, which is held at a community clubhouse. The workshop is open to all local women, with a focus on immigrant communities, including refugees and asylum seekers.

The 90-minute class, which has been held since 2019, is a happy space. Each week, some 15 women gather to tell stories, dance, act, and gossip. They are provided with bus passes, a play area for their young children, and an on-site health worker in case any of the women want to talk.

A mother of three originally from Egypt joined the workshop in 2020 and expressed how her life changed, especially after becoming involved in the theater’s associate artists program in 2021. She now has a paid job doing community outreach for the program. ‘Art, it’s a magic wand,’ she said. ‘But you need to believe, and you need to take the time to see what it will do.’

The project is just one example of a larger trend, as more groups and individuals worldwide are using the arts to empower, unite, and even help heal people who have suffered trauma, from war and natural disaster, or discrimination, poverty, and displacement.