Exhibition shows how people find strength through retelling their stories
Close to 200 people took part in a narrative-based exhibition exploring the link between art and positive mental health.
The Retelling Our Stories exhibition was a collaboration between Solstice and the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, and was born out of a panel discussion on October 10 — World Mental Health Day.
It is based on the Tree of Life therapy — a collective narrative therapy-based approach by Ncazelo Ncube, a Zimbabwean psychologist and narrative therapist living in South Africa.
One wall of the exhibition was dedicated to work created during four free mental health workshops facilitated by Solstice, a psychological and psychiatric treatment centre, using this concept. The rest of the exhibition was created by members of the public who were given prompts based on the Tree of Life therapy.
Risa Hunter, executive director at Masterworks, said: “During the workshops, we were talking about the linkages between art and the mind, and the significant ties there.
“We didn’t want to the conversation to end there, so we decided to host a joint exhibition in our gallery space for one month where we could dig into the creativity of the community and identity in Bermuda.
Siobhan Jones: “I was nervous. I didn’t want to do it at first, but my art therapist encouraged me to take part in it — one, because I love art; and two, she thought my story was important to share. I did it and my tree is up there. I like to see everyone else’s stories and art, and see how everyone interprets it in a different way. I hope that more stuff like this can happen because we need to talk more about mental health in Bermuda. I am very passionate about mental health because I have had my own struggles and I still struggle, but things like this make me know that I am not alone.”
Ericka Brown: “I think it is a good experience. I found my life was not in balance — I know a lot of information about my mother’s side of the family, but not enough about my dad’s side. It has led to something more for me. It talked about different elements of the tree, how we can build on whatever we put down. At the end, we got to view everybody’s tree and we wrote a comment about their tree. I liked that it helped us to know we are not in it all alone; we can use someone else’s strength. One tree is standing by itself, but all together they make our forest.”
Liz Young: “It was an eye opener; it made me really think. I think it will show people how to look at themselves.”
“There are lots of prompts on the wall and anybody could come and create in one of these boxes. The Tree of Life workshops used art therapy to dig into your roots, who you are and help you to identify your strengths as a person.
“It was very much a success; we were blown away. The important thing for us is accessibility — how can we create traction for diverse audiences.”
Jade Templer, senior clinical and liberation psychologist at Solstice, uses the Tree of Life concept with some of her clients. She said there was a “flurry of interest” after the panel discussion and the idea blossomed to introduce the larger community to the Tree of Life.
Dr Templer said: “It talks about the power of stories and that, often, when things go wrong with our wellbeing, it is not always because something feels broken inside us but sometimes it is because we become trapped in unhelpful stories about who we are or stories that the world tells about us or our people.
“Narrative therapy talks about the idea that instead of focusing on the problems or mental health difficulties, we can instead focus in on the more hopeful stories that are hidden underneath and on strengthening those stories, and thinking about all the different elements of their tree.
“The roots are where we came from and who we are. We can think about the ground as our daily-life activities and how that shapes our everyday lives. The trunk is our skills and abilities, the branches are our hopes and ambitions for our future, the leaves are the important people in our lives, the flowers are gifts that we have given to others and the fruits are gifts that have been given to us.
“The idea is that all of this helps us to feel that we can stand tall in our strengths and when the storms come, we can better weather them with those inner strengths.”
The exhibition closed on Saturday.
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