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“Art isn’t always about pretty things. It’s about who we are, what happened to us and how our lives are affected”.

Today, 21st April, is World Creativity and Innovation Day, a day that seeks to raise awareness of the importance of creativity and innovation in problem solving, particularly as these pertain to driving forward the SDGs.  

We have all witnessed recently the incredible potential of creativity and innovation at work in addressing the current coronavirus outbreak, from vacuum cleaner manufacturer Dyson creating ventilators to tailors and seamstresses sewing personal protection equipment (PPE) for health workers. Whilst it may be true that necessity (crisis) is the mother of invention, creativity is surely the mother of innovation.

Young adults participating in a WholeHeartedArt workshop during the Routes to Resilience Sustainable Futures programme with Afrika Tikkun Services in February 2020, helping early professionals develop resilience and readiness for the world of life and work.

At Routes to Resilience, creativity is one of the key attributes that we aim to nurture in the young people who participate in our programmes. These young people are inheriting a world with many problems that they will need to solve – if they are encouraged to approach these problems with openness, curiosity and a creativity mindset, that is our best chance of creating a brighter, sustainable and resilient  future for everyone.  

That’s also why we work with partners like Trilby Krepelka and her initiative WholeHearted Art. Trilby harnesses the power of art as a means of personal exploration -  a crucial part of the Routes to Resilience programmes. For our young people to get the most from their time with us, they must feel that the desire to step into their power as citizens comes from the inside, and not just because that’s what they’ve been told they should do. And that’s where Trilby steps in. 

Trilby delivers powerful creative workshops that use art to help our learners explore emotion and motivation. Through a seemingly simple process, participants are guided to gain more of an awareness of how they feel, and how that can translate into action to help the planet. Crucially, the emphasis is on being curious, present and engaged with the process, with no attachment to the end result. There is no judgement on whether the work is considered good or bad because that isn’t relevant – it’s the internal exploration which is key. The piece they have created becomes a part of them. 

Young adults participating in a WholeHeartedArt workshop during the Routes to Resilience Sustainable Futures programme with Afrika Tikkun Services in February 2020, helping early professionals develop resilience and readiness for the world of life and work.

After an introduction, a check-in and a short guided meditation, participants are given several hours to explore emotions, for example through a body map, where they create a full-sized outline of their bodies and colour it, in part or in whole, with what they are feeling. This could be passion, anger, energy, concern, it could be in the hand, heart, head or stomach. Crucially, they are asked to question how they might carry, witness, explore and adjust those feelings throughout the journey they take with Routes to Resilience. We see some incredible awareness and emotion unfold as participants slowly but surely lose the personal critical voice of judgement that inhibits exploration: even more excitingly, the discussions and reflections that follow explore how their feeling selves can be harnessed as they progress both through the programme and through life. What starts as abstract and symbolic becomes action and intervention – the art acts as an incubator and it’s so exciting to see. Our job as facilitators is to weave those outcomes into the fabric of the programme to make it engaging and relevant to each of the participants.   

The exploration of emotions and feelings is of course very therapeutic, and participants are encouraged to process their own history and their personal circumstances as they create their piece. Going at their own pace and with Trilby’s gentle guidance, this may be the first time that participants have been encouraged to explore their feelings in this way. 

Young adults participating in a WholeHeartedArt workshop during the Routes to Resilience Sustainable Futures programme with Afrika Tikkun Services in February 2020, helping early professionals develop resilience and readiness for the world of life and work.

It isn’t just this reflection that makes Trilby’s workshops such an important part of the Routes to Resilience programmes. Art teaches so many life skills too – from how to make mistakes and move on from them, to perseverance and risk-taking. It is for this reason that Trilby passionately believes – and we agree – that art should be a more integral part of education across the world, as it teaches something that other subjects cannot.  

At the end of each session, participants are invited first to reflect individually on what came up for them, and then to share with the rest of the group. This could be the emotions that emerged, the actions that they have prompted or simply how it felt to work with the materials. This sharing creates a feeling of togetherness and shared experience that binds the group closely together.  

Trilby’s workshops are a key milestone on our participants’ journeys to developing the mindsets they need to become the resilient leaders of tomorrow.  

In creating and celebrating World Creativity and Innovation Day, the UN hopes to shine a light on how innovation, creativity and mass entrepreneurship can expand opportunities for everyone, including women and young people, as well as providing solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. Equipped with the mindsets, skills and experience that the Routes to Resilient programme helps to nurture, we believe that our young people will be well equipped to lead on those solutions.  

We are extremely grateful to Trilby for her support of our young delegates and her pay it forward principle. To find out more visit www.wholeheartedart.co.za

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