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Deepening role of art as therapy for children with challenge

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Trapped 1, medium (oil on canvas), size 21 x 25

After years of research and experimentation, former Head, Department of Painting, School of Art and Industrial Design, Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State, Mr. Kent Onah, is set to unveil a book on how art can provide therapy for people with health challenges. Also billed to hold on same day at Quintessence Gallery, Parkview Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos is a solo art show, tagged, Children of the world (II).

In the book, titled, Art as medicine for children with disability in Nigeria, due for launch next month, he reveals the importance of creative art as a valuable tool in healing, as well as creating awareness for the usefulness of art beyond aesthetics. It also discusses its positive impact on children that are physically challenged.

Onah laments the inadequate attention parents pay to children with challenges, saying most of them do not always think of medical solution let alone using art as therapy.

The two-in-one event is to raise fund to promote and distribute the books in Nigeria, help to finance further researches and training in art medicine, which is ongoing. It is also geared towards collaborating with other health care providers to improve their services in Nigeria especially for children with disabilities. The show is the author’s continuation of his 2012 project, Children of the world, since it connects with speaking for them and creating awareness about their challenge.

While saying that almost all colours have capacity to heal depending on situation, Onah adds, “brilliant colours are for cognitive growth while red boosts energy.”

He explains, “when children have motor-skill problems or physical challenges, these colours will help them. They bring about motivation as well as help them more on the cognitive things. Children will prefer colours that are smooth because they suit them. These are forms of therapy.”

According to him, those who seek medical solution, see it as the last hope for their children “but it is not always so.”

Lamenting the situation, where most children with challenge are locked at the backyard or kept in an inner room because their parents will not want them to see visitors or be allowed to go to school. They don’t feel as part of the family or society because they have already been stigmatised.

One of the striking paintings in the forthcoming show is, Trapped, who at tender ages behave like adults. “They want to do everything we think they should do or we should be doing. Children are children. We want them to become adults at such tender age.” Trapped focuses on these children.

Other exhibits include, Love children and I am a child, are among exhibits that talk about loving children especially if they have some forms of challenges.

On how long it has taken him to put together the show, Onah answers: “I started long ago. I had to look back at some of the things I had done and I found out that between 2006 and 2008, I did a presentation at Life In My City Art Festival on this subject. So, it has taken so many years to put these together. It is not just something that I did in two years. The materials were coming all the way back up till present time,” he adds.

“Having known all these, I had to document something that will enlighten, create awareness and let them know that art can bring solution. Parts of the book talk about different disabilities that children can experience and the kind of art remedies they need,” he says.


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