PROCESS BELLISSIMA: Art as a Healing Journey

“Energetic Africa” is the title given to this painting expressed as a process. It is the journey from simplicity to complexity. It is the journey from simple events impacting my life, where everything went smoothly and under control, to the accumulation of endless challenges with reality where one rarely can dialogue meaningfully and attentively anymore. Day after day life comes with endless surprises and you don’t feel anymore resilient to the hard environment. This painting expresses the demands and consequences of 14 years of being a peacebuilder practitioner at the hub of conflict in Africa. Now, you are carried by the complex combination of energies that have become part of you. All together, this painting shows an honest journey. It is a frank dialogue with the reality within, trying to make meaning of it through acceptance and dialogue. It is art as a healing journey.

Energetic Africa: Step 1

David Bohm says “when you listen to somebody else, what they say becomes part of you whether you like it or not” (S. Gablik, 162). This bold statement, coming from the quantum world, becomes of crucial importance for us peacebuilders practitioners. We are called to be aware of the implications of our being builders of peace. In our peacebuilding field we are exposed to violence, trauma, chaos, arrogance, death, unhealthy egos, fear, etc. Please, as far as we interact with it, be sure that this becomes part of us, “WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT.” S. Gablik contributes saying that “one must be careful not to be caught in the Cartesianismone is rejecting. Integrating the new myth into one’s life disrupts one’s total reality” (S. Gablik, 165).

Energetic Africa: Step 2

To be caught is not to process what already has become part of us. To agree with that is to become a “wise practitioner” who incorporates self-reflection as a key tool. In this context, to develop resilient skills becomes a survival strategy for the practitioner. We have absorbed unresolved energies through our exposure and commitment to the conflict. Now, through processing we become agents of transformation. To process is an attitude of regression in the now. We acknowledge all what we have absorbed. We feel what resists to be felt. It is a process of recovery. The feeling of the feelings is what is crucial. You can’t heal what you can’t feel! As you experience the old feeling and let yourself be there, the healing work naturally takes place. This is the most efficient approach towards peacebuilding. In the end, you can only transform what becomes part of you. All the great peacebuilders in history have had to find time for solitude, to transform through love the unprocessed energy acquired by osmosis at the hub of conflict. If you don’t process there is a good chance that you become another façade of the conflict itself.

Art takes a very meaningful role in this process work. Artistic expression is the result (the outcome) of dialoguing with oneself. We dialogue with what we carry deep within. At this stage we are invited to develop five key values: love, humility, faith, hope and critical thinking (P. Freire, 88-92). Profound love towards oneself is the foundation towards a truthful dialogue. In the end it is the process of finding meaning. Meaning can only be found in love. It is a revolutionary process. You allow love to penetrate you, to heal you, to express itself through you, just as you are, with what you carry, without shame. There is a “giving birth” through the artistic “pangs of birth.” Yes, you give birth to something new in love. As Freire would say: “I am more and more convinced that true revolutionaries (artists) must perceive the revolution (art), because of its creative and liberating nature, as an act of love” (P. Freire, 89. Words in brackets added).

Energetic Africa: Step 3

When we go to an art gallery we are invited to contemplate how the artist is able to express his/her own process of making sense of his/her ownreality. This is the invitation for this week upcoming “Pax Bellissima” show. It is not so much the esthetical beauty of Lisa Schirch’s paintings, photography or pottery, as much as how she expresses objectively her own inner process of transformation from antagonistic, dualistic, and insecure events into something whole and healed. It is her process of coming to terms with the costs and challenges of peacebuilding efforts in the antagonistic and oppositional world of the military, and all that with her Mennonite heritage as background. This show is about art as a healing journey; a journey with purpose and meaning. It is about creating oneself through processing: it is about the beauty of a process: “Process Bellissima.”

Energetic Africa: Step 4

By Yago Abeledo


Gablik, S. (1991). The Reenchantment of Art. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Freire, P. (2005). Pedagogy of the Opressed. New York: Continuum.