Artists bring creativity to Bulawayo hospitals
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