Nigeria: National Arts in Health Celebrating Abilities in Disabilities

10 May 2021

The Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria's building, located opposite Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH Idiaraba, Lagos, reveals quite an amazing therapeutic ingredient the art possesses.

vanguard Right from the reception, you are welcome with very colourful assorted visual art expressions displaying diverse subjects and messages. The works which range from beautiful landscapes, human forms, objects, etc., make you feel at ease immediately and gradually, get you drawn towards each piece thereby, calming earlier uneasy feelings about hospital environment.

That's the power of art! It's even more exciting to know that the works were produced by children who were encouraged to paint away their pain while in hospital; an exercise which became quite remedial for them.

The story of these young 'artists' have long been expounded over the years through the Arts in Medicine initiative founded by Kunle Adewale- a visual artist.

The Project initiated in 2016 through the support of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Mission Nigeria, has hosted several arts in health programs in Nigeria and across Africa, with over 20,000 people as beneficiaries.

It has been sustained through partnership with government agencies, diplomatic missions, local and international NGO's and private and public sector, to inspire healing, happiness and hope in patients, caregivers, healthcare providers and the community at large. 'Music for Mental Health', 'Gift of Music at Christmas', 'Mural for Maternal and Mental Health', and 'Bedside Arts', are some of the projects executed so far.

It is therefore in a bid to strengthen institutional ties, bridge the gap between the arts and health in Nigeria, and most importantly, sensitize people on the need to appreciate and support whatever ability that lies in any individual's disability, that the inaugural National Arts in Health Conference, NAHCON, is holding this May. The conference, according to Kunle Adewale which is a phenomenal event holding amidst the prevailing pandemic, takes place from May 24th to May 30th, 2021. It has "The Arts, Health and You" as its theme.

Adewale hinted at a press briefing held last week at the Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria, Lagos, that the conference is in partnership with health, art and faith-based organizations such as Lagos State Ministry of Health, Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria, Center for Contemporary Art Lagos, U.S. Mission Nigeria, RCCG Freedomcourt, DiBadili Institute, Sip and Paint Ng. Kairos Hub, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, African Artists' Foundation, Gabi Williams Alzheimer's Foundation, Asido Foundation, Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative (SURPIN), Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria and a host of others.

Expected at the conference are about 500 participants comprising, students, professionals, cultural organizations, healthcare institutions, community members and stakeholders in health and community wellbeing. Intended as a biannual event, the maiden edition Adewale noted, "promises to offer all participants a hybrid experience, as Nigerians will be participating in both online and on-site activities.

"The selection of speakers are diverse in experience and expertise in both health and the arts, with a key note address to be delivered by the Honorable Commissioner for Health, Lagos, Prof. Akin Abayomi on May 26, 2021, opening remarks by the United States Consul General- Consul General Claire Pierangelo, a good will message from the honourable Minister of Health- Dr. Osagie Ehanire, and others".

The conference features a total of twenty-one riveting events including Medics in the arts, a virtual visual arts exhibition tagged "Covid 19, the new normal"; documentary and film show, workshops, panel discussions, family entertainment, comedy, virtual music and much more. In a special way, the conference will be "Spotlighting Arts in Health and community art programs in Nigeria such as the Arts in Medicine Fellowship, Arts in Medicine Programs at the Sickle Cell Foundation, Art4life of the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Footprint of David, Sobayo Abolore Art Foundation, Street Project Foundation, Mud Art Ltd, and Sip and Paint Nigeria", the organizer hinted.

Also, there'll be 'My Covid' story which is a session aimed at providing a stigma free platform to beam light on lived experiences of surviving the Covid 19 pandemic as well as Journaling your way to mental health which explores the relevance of using creative writing and other creative activities to facilitate personal mental well-being.

Interestingly, the conference also features 'Mediwood' (short films and health conversations) which uses the art of film making and documentaries to highlight health conditions to facilitate awareness and bring about community engagement.

'Art saves: My story', a-true-life-story telling session that explores the uplifting powers of the arts for individuals who have persevered and overcome health and disabilities challenges, Arts therapy masterclass with the United States Art envoy and commissioning of the first Arts and Health innovation Hub in Africa located at Neuropsychiatric hospital, Yaba will also hold.

The main event taking place within 11am - 3pm encompasses a keynote address delivered by the Lagos state health commissioner, presentation of awards to nominated national Covid heroes, Tour of the Sickle Cell Foundation art gallery and a panel discussion on health innovation, intervention and advocacy, official public presentation of the Arts in Medicine music project for the pandemic by frontliners, a song by health workers that inspires hope in the midst of the COVID.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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