ART therapy is a tool that allows people, especially children, to communicate what they feel through their creations.
Ntombifuthi Sangweni has been using art therapy for the past eight years and believes it is growing and there is a high demand for it in our townships.
Sangweni works as a community art counsellor with young sexual offenders at the Protea Magistrate’s Court in Soweto. She was trained for three years to become a specialised counsellor by the Lefika La Phodiso/Art Therapy Centre.
She works under the Teddy Bear Clinic’s diversion programme which aims to rehabilitate young offenders without sending them to prison.
The programme is designed to divert young sex offenders away from the criminal justice system to a therapeutic environment.
Speaking at the Lefika La Phodiso/Art Therapy Centre conference and exhibition in Johannesburg, Sangweni said her clients were children aged between six and 17, mostly boys, who have committed sexual crimes.
“These are young sexual offenders who have been referred to us by the courts or school. We provide these children with a safe space. We give them art material and they have to express how they feel through it.
“At times they have to create a scenario and explain why they are here. It takes them back to where they have been and what they have done.
“It is the first big step towards healing and dealing with what they have done,” said Sangweni.
She said it was through these creations that she and her co-facilitator Munyaradzi Makosa were able to get a better understanding of what these children were feeling.
The programmes to rehabilitate these youngsters take about 12 weeks.
“I strongly believe that there is a huge demand for art therapy. We need resources to be able to reach out to children who have not been victimised or committed a crime. That way we can teach them how to create boundaries and what to do in instances when someone abuses them,” Sangweni said.
“In the case with these offenders, we also have to teach them how to create boundaries. The fact that they have sexually abused someone does not mean they cannot be abused as well.”
She said the programme needed more funding to reach victims.
“Most children come from broken families where they are raised by one parent. In most instances, they have no parent at all. That has a huge impact on a child’s life. Reaching out to these children will make a huge difference and they will know that they are not alone,” Sangweni said.
Although art therapy is fairly new in South Africa, Lefika La Phodiso/Art Therapy Centre celebrated 20 years since it started operating.
The centre’s director Luke Lamprecht said the organisation had treated 157137 children, parents, caregivers, educators since it was established.