Art Heals

by Cynthia Nassif

“Art is our one true global language. It knows no nation, it favors no race, and it acknowledges no class. It speaks to our need to reveal, heal, and transform. It transcends our ordinary lives and lets us imagine what is possible.” ~ Richard Kamler ~

When I think of Art as a practice of healing, I think about transformational dance, poetry, painting, and various forms of expressive art. Hence, I picture art as a process that heals the individual as it is practiced. As a peacebuilder in the field of conflict transformation, I see art as an instrument that is able to transform conflicts into opportunities.

Suzi Gablik argues in her book the “Re-enchantment of Art” that art is a growing arena that can stimulate change. Art is purposeful and is subject to social responsibility. She rejects the fact that art may be disconnected or neutral to world needs and problems. In Rwanda and Burundi, according to Cynthia Cohen at Brandeis University, drum dance dramas that illustrate the story of the Rwandan genocide assists in the process of reconciliation through story sharing which help acknowledge the past in order to move forward towards a reconciliation process for a better tomorrow.

It is important to realize the significance of expressive art in Peacebuilding in order to educate reflective peacebuilding practitioners with the immense knowledge we have about art and local cultures undergoing a process of transformation in order to use local sources of positive change such as music, handcrafts, and others to transform the pain that societies have lived into a healing process of forgiving nature. Henceforward, according to Dr. Cornel West, “art is about those who have the courage to take bits of reality to get us to see reality in light of a new reality.” Therefore, Art creates opportunities for engaging with ones’ own self or the community in a healing process. For me personally, I enjoy writing poetry and playing music because it helps release the tension I feel that builds up from day to day rigidities. Consequently, if expressive arts are able to provoke our positive world view through our neurotransmitters on such a narrow level, it definitely has an enduring transformative effect on the macro level.

Lisa Schirch, peacebuilder and artist, realizes the vitality of art as a practice of healing because there is no healing without the expression of emotions and feelings. She portrays her own journey of peacebuilding through the practice of art as healing in her paintings of trees reflecting emotions, feeling, experiences, creativity, and a positive energy that would aid her in the process of conflict transformation and her day to day work in the field.

Finally, it is important to equip ourselves with resilience strategies as individuals and as a community to create opportunities, embrace talents, and generate creative solutions for the conflicts we face so that we may transcend our knowledge through art into a potential step forward in the journey of transformation.


-posted by Emma