Artists bring creativity to Bu­l­awayo hos­pi­tals

The Press and Journal (Inverness) - - FEATURE - BY KIERAN BEAT­TIE

Three mem­bers of Aberdeen’s arts com­mu­nity have vis­ited Zim­babwe to im­prove med­i­cal care through creativity.

Sally Thom­son, di­rec­tor of the Grampian Hos­pi­tals Art Trust, Sue Fair­burn, a lec­turer at the city’s Gray’s School of Art, and writer Shane Stra­chan trav­elled to Bu­l­awayo be­tween Novem­ber 12 and 18.

The trio joined forces with arts and health or­gan­i­sa­tions in Bu­l­awayo, one of Aberdeen’s twin cities, to iden­tify ar­eas of need within the African coun­try’s hos­pi­tals.

Work­ing in con­junc­tion with the Na­tional Gallery of Zim­babwe, they toured the Mpilo Hospi­tal and United Bu­l­awayo Hos­pi­tals group.

They car­ried out work on a num­ber of projects, in­clud­ing creative demon­stra­tions with lo­cal artists us­ing chalk draw­ings, clay, paint­ings and other ma­te­ri­als.

Ms Thom­son said: “We ini­tially thought that we would only get as far as discussing a po­ten­tial arts project with the hos­pi­tals within the week. So it was fan­tas­tic to ac­tu­ally be able to bring a par­tic­i­pa­tory art ex­pe­ri­ence di­rectly to them, which gar­nered a highly positive re­sponse from all in­volved.”

The team re­vealed that their proud­est achieve­ment was trans­form­ing one of the hospi­tal’s youth units with ap­peal­ing art­work.

Staff at the fa­cil­ity told the Aberdeen team they were wor­ried young­sters might be dis­cour­aged from vis­it­ing for sex­ual health ad­vice and coun­selling ser­vices due to the unit be­ing based in­side drab, grey cab­ins.

The three cre­atives worked with the hospi­tal staff and lo­cal artists to cre­ate colour­ful art on the side of the cab­ins us­ing vinyl cut-outs. Ms Fair­burn added: “This was the real high­light of the trip, see­ing the artists and hospi­tal staff come to­gether to make a dif­fer­ence to the en­vi­ron­ment in real time through hands-on creative en­gage­ment.

“The youth and com­mu­nity will im­me­di­ately see this work and that’s what the project is about.

“The staff have held on to the re­main­ing vinyl and will be en­cour­ag­ing youth users of the ser­vice to cut out their own shapes and add them to the art­work, so that it con­tin­ues to grow and en­hance the en­vi­ron­ment over time.”

Fol­low­ing their visit, artists in the city cre­ated a new col­lec­tive and will con­tinue to en­gage with hos­pi­tals and health­care providers in the re­gion.

The Aberdeen group have said they will con­tinue to sup­port their part­ners in Bu­l­awayo by seek­ing to se­cure fund­ing and ex­pand­ing the project fur­ther. Mr Stra­chan added: “The Bri­tish Coun­cil in Zim­babwe spoke very highly of the im­pact that was be­ing made.”

Aberdeen artists, from left, Shane Stra­chan, Sue Fair­burn and Sally Thom­son with col­leagues

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