Thursday,21 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1370, (23-29 November 2017)
Thursday,21 February, 2019
Issue 1370, (23-29 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

The power of art therapy

Mai Samih meets one young woman who is determined to spread the benefits of art therapy more widely, notably by drawing on stones 

The power of art therapy

Many people seek activities to rid themselves of the negative energy or stress they go through each day, including yoga or practising sports. But one young woman from Qena in Upper Egypt has found a more unusual way of relieving stress: drawing on stones. 

Samar Sayed Zaki graduated in psychology from her home university and was determined to find a way of blending her interest in the arts with psychology. “I took courses with artist Ilhami Naguib and found out about art therapy that could be used as part of a course of treatment. Through Naguib I was introduced to Suzanne Naddar, who specialises in such therapies, and she introduced me to the art of mandalas,” Zaki explains.

Mandalas are originally Indian drawings in the shape of circles. “Naddar explained that this type of art has been successfully used in art therapy,” Zaki said, adding that she was so intrigued that she undertook six months of training in the technique under Naddar’s supervision. The latter would interpret the lines and colours for her and monitor the development of her drawings. 

Zaki then took her drawings to another level when she switched the materials on which she would draw. “I started to draw mandalas on materials including paper, wood, and glass. I did research into this form of art and the ways it was drawn and the materials it was drawn on. While I was doing that, I found pictures that at first glance I thought were abstract images but then found they were forms of rock art, or drawings on stones. I found out about an Italian artist who made these kinds of images, so I contacted her and started to do my own rock art.”

 She made 100 pieces featuring mandalas and lined them up “like pieces of chocolate” before exhibiting them and getting positive reactions. She then started to draw other images on rocks, including animals and human figures. “I have tried drawing on many different materials, but drawing on stones was something different for me as I find it so relaxing. It is very enjoyable to draw an image on a stone that is smaller than the palm of your hand. There is also no shortage of stones to draw on, and the material is free,” Zaki said.    

Samar Sayed Zaki

“First, I wash the rocks thoroughly, and then I use acrylic colours which I find tend to work best,” she added. 

Zaki is very interested in psychological therapies that use the arts, and she reads widely about them. “I am currently a Masters student in psychology, and I am specialising in art therapy. I have trained in cognitive behavioural therapy and done TOT (training of trainers) training because I would like to teach what I have learnt to others as well,” she says. 

She started exhibiting her work through an initiative organised by the group Nedaa. “After working with Naguib on colour, I entered local and international exhibitions with Nedaa before organising private exhibitions in my own governorate. The biggest source of promotion for my work has been through Facebook,” she says.

She has organised workshops for children of six to 11 years and for young women in their 20s. She is also interested in recycling in order to teach children useful skills, and she has organised workshops for children to teach them how to make the things that they may otherwise buy, such as toys, notebooks, hair bands and so on. 

“I would like to teach children to appreciate the value of work — the fact that they can make such things with their own hands and can start at an early age. I want to show them that the things they see around them can also be made and that they are not that difficult to do,” she says.     

Zaki organises special workshops for girls, the first on making children’s toys which is also good for mothers who like to guarantee the cleanliness of the materials used in their children’s toys. Zaki says that these workshops could help young women start businesses in making the kinds of toys they see in shops. She also teaches them how to make key chains and purses or ornaments for babies’ rooms and beds, like the toys seen hanging above children’s beds among other ideas. 

The power of art therapy

The second type of workshop is on making ornaments from recycled materials. “I want to teach young women that they do not need to buy expensive materials or have to go to antique shops to buy expensive decorations for the home. They can also make these things themselves using cheaper materials that might otherwise be thrown away,” Zaki says.

She has always had the idea of recycling and zero costs in mind, with this being behind her idea of making things out of unwanted objects and profiting from them without paying too much. She is preparing another workshop in the near future on the theme of recycling, hoping to teach participants how to make decorations with things that are readily available in the home.

“I have a small dream and a big dream,” she says. “The small one is to become a qualified art therapist with my own practice and a place to display my work. I would like to have a gallery and a workshop for courses to teach others things that they can enjoy doing and have a source of work and pleasure at the same time.”

“The big dream is related to all the children in the world. It hurts me to see a child working and being deprived of his or her childhood, or not having the means to undertake artistic activities as they cannot afford to pay to take part in them. I would like to do something for these children to help them live their childhood away from any materialistic calculations.”

“They are not responsible for the circumstances they are living in, and they should not be deprived of their childhood. They should not carry a responsibility that is bigger than their age. Playing is not a waste of time, and neither is art. It helps a child to grow and can help a child do better at school,” Zaki says.

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