CULTURAL HEALING ARTISTRY
Posted 1997. Last Updated Sept, 2014.
Cultural Healing Action has emerged from Vanuatu and other Pacific Cultures as well from Australian Aboriginal people. Contexts are set up where people can explore aspects of the own wellbeing together with others towards enriching wellbeing in family and community life.
Throughout remote areas of Northern Australia and the East Asia Pacific region, indigenous, small minority, and intercultural people have a long history of using Cultural Healing Action towards fostering and maintaining all aspects of wellbeing. This page provides a brief over view of some of their healing ways.
Note this Cultural Healing Action material is also repeated in the Healing Ways page, where many of the concepts in this page are described more fully.
associated links refer to the end of this Page
Cultural Healing Action
Cultural Healing Action may be used to sustain and or evolve all forms of wellbeing. It can provide a healing support to survivors of torture and trauma.
An outline of Cultural Healing Action
Every artistic aspect of a culture (a way of life) may be used for nurturing healing.
drumming, percussion and body percussion
drama and spontaneous drama
play and games
singing, chanting, toning, humming and vocalising
sculpture, carving and moulding
Healing Cultural Action in general terms involves actively fostering and sustaining cultural wellbeing. It fosters people extending their own culture as a balance to other cultures that may be dominant, elitist and oppressive.
As well, it is a movement for intercultural reconciling and wellbeing. It fosters the developing of Quick Response Healing Teams to resolve local community and international conflict. It provides scope for people to actively engender and promote values, language, practices, modes of action, arts and other aspects of a way of life (culture). These in turn facilitate social emancipation, intercultural healing, cultural justice, as well as social and environmental wellbeing.
Cultural Healing Action draws on influences from Vanuatu and other Islands in the Region, though not simply applied.
Cultural Healing Action may run for less than an hour to several days (or weeks). People may be involved in energetic and not so energetic games and activities.
Enablers may have a broad concept of activities and possibilities for the time together. The process may start out with some structure or context, or a felt need of the participants. After a time, activities and games may begin to emerge out of the spontaneous responding of the participants, with action evolving from the energy and inclination of the moment.
In a very real sense, the participants evolve their own experience together. Enablers may be there as resource people, though never as directors or gurus.
Cultural Healing Action tends to be 'wellbeing' based rather than 'issue' based, although issues may emerge, disappear and be resolved.
Contexts may be created allowing states of wellbeing to emerge. Typically, liminal experiences create fertile contexts with emergent properties.
People begin exploring new ways of being in the world together and in the process, issues tend to cease to be. Action may place people into 'desired states' so that prior problematic behaviours are no longer a concern. To explore 'why' they used to do something when people have now changed becomes a some-what irrelevant exercise. Finding who was 'at fault' in prior behaviours is not particularly ecological or useful.
In keeping with the previous paragraph, action focuses on what is wanted, rather than on what is not wanted. Often enabler suggestions to explore what is wanted will have people talking about what they do not want. This may be reframed to being 'exploring what we do want. The comments of this paragraph may be born in mind when reading the section below on resolving conflict. The arts and other elements of culture provide opportunities to reflect on everyday social structures and practices. A description of some of the games and exercises commonly used will perhaps present a more concrete idea of the issue-posing and issue-resolving process that characterise people's Cultural Healing Action.
Participants of all ages may explore creative and artistic ways of examining local cultural wellbeing matters that concern the participants and their communities. Generative wellbeing acts may result in many issues ceasing to be. Refer the Daughter on Bail Story.
Generative wellbeing acts such as:
assuring clean water
playful healing ways
sharing what works
Resolving issues such as:
corrective healing action
Participants may create short plays, songs and rhythms, poems, stories, dances, murals and postcards, and other materials about these things. A strong sense of group and community bonding may develop or be strengthened. Often others - friends and relatives - may join in towards the finish of the gatherings to experience performances, games, and perhaps an exhibition of artistic products. Typically, participants have rarely, if ever, participated in artistic expression before.
To casual observers, people's Cultural Healing Action may appear to be a curious mix of childlike activities, where grown-ups, adolescents and children may sing simple songs, work with crayons, pens, markers, pencils, chalk and coloured paper, and play games.
Some of the processes:
Social Mapping. Participants may explore the function of personal and community maps and their significant features. They may construct social maps, or maps of their community's or their individual concerns; detailing points of origin, the destination, the landmarks and signposts, etc. - using cut-outs, drawings, and found objects. Joining with others in social mapping may be transformative. The creating of social maps may focus on producing graphic and directional representations of individual and community wellbeing aspirations, ideal situations, and possible courses to take. Refer creating futures.
Conflict Studies. Conflict may be a motive force for art - as in life. Recognising this, in some contexts, games and exercises exploring the various kinds of conflict may make up a significant portion of the early life of some Cultural Healing Action.
The ‘As if’ framing creates possibilities for hypothetical realplay where transforming experience may occur.
Physical conflict may be explored through such games as Tug-of-War, Dragons Tail, and various group tag games. These may illustrate the tension that may evolve if force is used, particularly to oppose. The value of unified action, cooperative teamwork and therapeutic mediating ways in conflict resolving situations may be highlighted. Contexts may be rich with possibilities to incorporate / embody any of the healing ways you know and those included in this page.
Jog-Freeze is a verbal conflict experience - participants jog in a circle and when two or three people are tagged, the jogging stops. Then the tagged people come into the centre of the circle and have an improvised healing mediation and seek to understand each other's maps. These little segments are then discussed to explore factors that sustain and resolve conflicts.
Hidden disagreement may be explored by assigning subtexts (for example, undisclosed agendas, attitudes, motives and outlooks) to participants, then having them interact showing only a 'superficial character' embodying a totally different subtext to the world. As an example a person may have an open subtext of 'Act strong because life is a jungle and it is the survival of the fittest'. This may be linked with a hidden one of 'Do not trust anyone - people only use you up'. Participants eventually try to discover each others' subtexts as part of their differing maps as a source of obvious, but implicit conflict among themselves.
As stated above, Cultural Healing Action is wellbeing focused. Exploring conflict may have the tendency for people to start entering into 'conflict' based states - blaming, faultfinding, justifying, scapegoating and the like - even starting conflict! Given this, sometimes enablers may 'bypass' conflict and set up and structure contexts and processes having rich possibilities for cooperative and conflict resolving action. Participants may so immerse themselves in cooperative relation building acts that conflict just ceases to be an issue. These processes provide rich opportunities to use many of the skills contained in this page and other Laceweb pages. Refer Healing Ways.
Image Theatre and Forum Theatre
The conflict resolving exercises may naturally progress to image theatre, a basic device used in enriching wellbeing for issue dissolving. Participants often divide into groups of at least five, and each group devises three tableaux (frozen postures, attitudes, images and dialogue) depicting:
the present state, concern or conflict situation
the transition phases - the dynamics of change evolving
the desired, ideal or resolved state
Forum theatre builds from image theatre. The situations presented in the group in stages can now be developed into a more fluid dramatic piece, complete with movement, sound, etc. The participants (still divided into groups) develop the piece either completely (i.e. an aspect of wellbeing is enriched - a concern is resolved) or up to a crisis point only. Pieces are then performed with others as observers. Members of this audience stop the performance any time a person has concerns about what is being presented. During the replay, people stopping the performance do not to talk about why they want to change something. Rather they assume the role of the actor concerned or simply add another actor in the drama. The process can go on until the audience agrees that the performance offers a rich representation of the wellbeing enriching process.
If the performance is one that stops at a crisis point, the audience supplies a resolution to the crisis. As many actors again from the audience may rise to modify the piece. At the very end of these processes, a forum may be held with everybody present involved to further explore the presentations. Forum theatre thus becomes a process for dismantling the alienation between actors and audience typical of formal theatre. It also may serve as a rehearsal for action in the real conflict situations represented in the pieces. The healing cultural activities and dynamic 'group relating' may provide corrective, remedial and generative emotional experiences that may lead to personal and group concerns actually being healed/resolved during the process of exploring them. At the same time participants may be gaining competencies that they may use in the future.
Cultural healing action may enable healing potential within therapeutic space. It may create opportunities for exploring inner experience and outer reality - exploring the space between 'appears to be real' and 'experientially real', i.e. what is felt somatically (in the body) - enriching the capacity of 'individual self' and the 'collective self' - as healer/actor in experiencing 'safe abandon' - surrendering to the unfolding moment and catching the flow - re-experiencing early childhood pre-play processes of embodiment, projecting and role, dramatic play - exploring within the 'personal theatre' of the individual and community and creating the healing theatre of the group as a whole. The above processes may be used to enrich wellbeing while gaining the requisite skills in the process.
Healing Cultural Action involves actively fostering and sustaining cultural wellbeing. It fosters people extending their own culture as a balance to other cultures that may be dominant, elitist and oppressive. As well, it is a movement for intercultural reconciliation and wellbeing.
It may foster the development of Quick Response Healing Teams to resolve local community and international conflict. It may provide scope for people to actively engender and promote values, language, practices, modes of action, arts and other aspects of a way of life (culture). These in turn may enable social emancipation, intercultural healing, cultural justice, as well as social and environmental wellbeing.
As Cultural Healing Action events occur these will be posted on this page. Any new processes will also be added.
Action is evolving towards the possibility of using the above processes to support survivors of torture and trauma in Bougainville. For more information on this, refer the Bougainville link at the bottom of this page.
Note this Cultural Healing Action material is also repeated in the Healing Ways page, where many of the concepts in this page are described more fully. Healing Ways is an encyclopaedia.
Ideas are emerging for holding an international gathering at the end of this year or early next year in NE Australia. It may be possible for Cultural Healing Action to be incorporated into the process of this gathering. For more information on this refer to the 'Small Island' link at the bottom of this page.
For associated links refer to the end of this Page
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