Atrapa de sueños!

By Aleks Allison

The use of indigenous Art withtin Art Therapy

Project Mosoj (center for burned children)

After speaking to the children about their dreams during the ‘diario de sueños’ (dream journal) activity (click here to read about their dream journals) a few kids made comments about experiencing bad dreams. Elba even wrapped her journal up so that it could not be opened again. This inspired us to create dreamcatchers of a sort in order to make the children feel more protected! Traditional dreamcatchers I had seen before looked more complicated; however I had seen many pieces in my house that looked very beautiful and much sim pler. My Bolivian housemate told me that they were symbols of protection from bad dreams, bad spirits and bad luck; keeping the house happy and safe.

These pieces were traditionally used by the Huichol Indians in Mexico, as symbols of protection, and were often placed in corn fields to keep their crops safe from bad spirits. They were also placed along roads where people would be walking, or where people worked. These mystic objects promote peace, happiness and protection. They were named Sikuli which means the power to see things unknown. The four directions of the sticks indicate the four elements – earth, fire, water and air! In español, the sikuli objects are often called ojos de dios (Gods eye) which is considered a Christianized name.

Because the Sikuli are from Mexico, they are often very colourful and vibrant! The kids loved this aspect of the activity – choosing and changing colours many times. What we created in the class was something that originated as a Sikuli. I had never created one before, but they were quite simple to get the hang of.

It was a beautiful, symbolic object to make with the kids – with only good connotations. The colours were uplifting and the repetition of creating one is not only relaxing but to me it is symbolic of a life cycle. It was uplifting to create something for protection, and to leave them hanging in the kids’ house as a constant reminder that they are supported, loved and protected.

After shown an example of the dreamcatcher (and the bag of coloured wool), the kids were very excited. Luz did not want to participate in the beginning but soon joined in once she saw everyone else creating beautiful things. For most kids it was a simple activity – I explained it as alrededor, alrededor, alrededor (around, around, around). The repetition was relaxing for all involved and was a fairly silent activity. It was a very important activity to release stress. Due to the tangible aspects of the activity, it was also great to see that the kids were all focused and were very present in the moment, focusing just on their hands and the wool.

Many of the kids did struggle in creating a knot at the beginning of each atrapasueños, however once shown they were eager to do it themselves. Some kids began showing others how to start once they had learnt.

I saw that everyone’s first atrapasueños was mainly consisting of one or two colours, but their second ones were much more vibrant and creative! There were stripes, four colour changes and much more different. They all began to really focus and I noticed that they were all determined to keep the string untangles.

The kids also discovered techniques on their own –  Elba discovered that changing the way you wrapped the wool around the stick could give a different outcome. One boy made four atrapasueños (very surprising!) and I was very happy to see that the boys were using pink, yellow and bright colours as a change from black and blue.

Project Viedma (department of pediatric oncology)

We also did this activity at Project Viedma. The kids who we worked with were clearly disadvantaged (three were hooked up to a drip and therefore only could use one hand properly) and one girl was blind. Despite these disadvantages, the kids loved the activity and were eager to make them. It is important that the kids get a mixture of activities – and for some kids in particular tangible activities like that are very much needed. Today in Viedma hospital, Ghimena (a young blind girl) was able to start an atrapasueños and was able (with a little help) to do the activity – feeling the stings and string and feeling the object grow outwards was very beneficial to her. It is incredibly therapeutic as it is repetitive, colourful and can be done in a slow, trance- like manner. It is an activity that can be done best in silence, in a sort of trance.

They all ended up with similar results to the children at Mosoj, and were not disappointed if their atrapasueños were slightly looser than the examples shown. They were simply proud to have created something beautiful. Ghimena (a young blind girl) was able to feel her object after the activity, and felt the wool and enjoyed the outcome.

They were all incredibly proud of the beauty they had each created. In Mosoj, we finished the exercise by hanging the dreamcatchers from the ceiling so that the kids could see what they had created every day! The final object is a reminder of protection, and to protect each other, and to have them all present in the house I believe it is a symbol that they will recognize to look after themselves and each other.

Krupa Jhaveri: The use of indigous art tools as tools for healing. So I found art functioning as therapy in these traditional art forms. Their pride is visible and they feel empowered by their own art.

By Aleks Allison.

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