Art Therapy

The other day, I arrived at the gate of the Child and Youth Care Centre for our first art fun activity of 2017. Immediately I was in high spirits when some kids came running to open the gate. I did not realize how much I had missed them during the long December summer holidays. Their hugs and greetings left me quite emotional. Yes, I am emotional, and why not?

Due to circumstances, some faces I had gotten to know last year were missing. And also due to circumstances, there were now new ones. I tried not to allow myself to reflect too much on all the reasons behind this…

The kids and I are in anticipation of the exhibition of their work later this year. I am so proud of them all. We do not have a lot of time together, and no formal instructions are given to them. It is a relaxed and stress-free two hours of playing with paint or clay. One cannot call it art therapy as such but nevertheless, the benefits of these activities are clear.

“It is this idea of self-exploration that can often lead a person to some insightful conclusions about themselves. Don’t be surprised if the effects of art therapy lead to a general sense of relief and overall better mental health. Art therapy can help improve various mental and physical symptoms including, but not limited to, reducing pain, anxiety, and tension. Art therapy can also help people with their social skills. The benefits of art therapy in these types of situations can help people that are withdrawn or shy, or who, for some reason or another, have a difficult time functioning within social situations.” (

In between, we laugh, talk, and we discuss whatever topic comes up. They are super special kids. Maybe one day I will be able to spend more time with them and explore more options of involvement.

“Whoever welcomes in my name one of these children, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not only me but also the one who sent me.” Mark 9:37 GNB

Photo Credits: Natalii Rak (girl on wall); Nuxuno Xän (man with leaves for hair); Jaison Cianelli, abstract world map; Giraffes from

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This week’s visit to the Youth Centre was different and difficult, for me as well as for the children. It was challenging. From the moment I arrived, I could sense what I can describe as a chaotic atmosphere. The kids were a bit out of control. It was as if their little bodies were filled with an energetic force that needed to explode.

It was almost impossible to get anything done. My voice had little or no impact on them, or so it seemed.

After quite a struggle, they did manage to finish their art for the day. But then one of the kids went and did his own art on some of the other children’s canvases, and there was a verbal and physical fight between them. I was taken aback, and a little surprised by how quickly their behavior turned aggressive and violent. Even our usual snack time served as another platform for a fight.

Who knows what they have had to handle in their personal lives? At the beginning of their weekend, who was available to them to guide them through their homeless struggles?

I am saddened. The children’s behavior proved to me once again how hungry they are for love, affirmation, acceptance, attention and encouragement.

For most of us these are basic human needs, and we take it for granted that they should be met. However, for them, this is not necessarily the case.

The art activity I do with them every week seems to be a very small token of love in comparison to what they need. I am convinced that it is not the art they need most, but for me to meet them where they are at any given moment.

Here are some of their canvasses.

Projek 60 Collage

Extravagant Love

The children at the local Kleinmond Youth Centre are some of the most gorgeous and enthusiastic kids I know, and they are a joy to be with.

Originally, I was arrogant enough to think that I was doing them a favour by exposing them to art and creating an opportunity for them to have an outlet for their creativity.

Now, I know better. They teach me so much. I am the one that is enriched and the one who is learning from them.

The art activity was never meant to be a formal art class but merely an opportunity to enjoy painting, with the freedom to create whatever they felt like. There are enough issues and pressures in their lives and the intention was, and is, for them to just relax and enjoy. But still, here I am, learning to see the world through their eyes. Their real world. For instance, we live in a small coastal village where the sea and fishing are well known to them. At least every few weeks, two or three of them will paint a sinking boat. A sign of their emotional lives, perhaps.

This video of a three year-old girl (my granddaughter) shows that paint, a canvas, fingers, a few brushes and a loving atmosphere are all that is needed to create unique and honest art pieces.

But more importantly, for these kids it adds value and self worth to their lives.

Soon we will be working on an exhibition where they can showcase their work – they deserve at least that much.

And as for me? I once read the following somewhere: “By God’s enabling grace I will hold Jesus up before the world…I will seek to respond to his extravagant love by any and all means possible. I will strive to create art that will communicate to the world, and most especially to him, how much I love and long for his presence.”

Fun Fun And Fun from Martha Kruger on Vimeo.