Monday 29 March 2021

Catharsis, expression through the arts and gender-based violence

Nicole Sacco of South Roots International

(Partially funded by National Arts Council South Africa)

Nicole Sacco of South Roots International  led a skills transference online session that focused on catharsis.

Catharsis - The term itself comes from the Greek katharsis meaning "purification" or "cleansing." (Cherry. 2021).

"what’s important in this process is catharsis that leads to some sort of restoration or renewal. What we want is to bring about some form of positive change to our lives."

Nicole started with a relaxation exercise that focused on relaxing the muscles in the face through the use of the fingertips of both hands.

She then shared a technique for identifying how one is thinking, feeling and behaving when coping with difficult emotions.  She did this through the drawing of a figure and text associated to the head, heart and feet (inside-and-outside). Nicole associated it to the participants' thinking, feeling and actions when COVID-19 started in 2020 and if and how this the thinking, emotions and actions had shifted in 2021. 

Rianna of Gorsehill Studios Indra Manchester, UK discusses her drawing and writings that express her thinking, feeling and actions on COVID-19 and how these have changed over the year.

Nicole then moved onto a role play activity based on gender-based violence.  Below are her notes:

The activity:

We will have 5 breakout rooms (depending on number of participants). There are 5 characters: the victim, perpetrator, a family member, a neighbour and maybe a policeman or a doctor.

Each group will be assigned a character and then they will be writing a story for that character. I have questions prepared like: 

-who is this? 

- what is their background? 

- what is their current situation? What happened? 

- what is the solution in their mind?

In writing the story of the character, the idea is that participants tell a story/write from their personal experience.

Once the story is written, they will present in a creative way. Like a short drama, poem, etc. 

(Everyone’s video off except those who are ‘on stage’.)



Cherry, K. 2021. The Role of Catharsis in Psychology. Dotdash. 17-03-2021,

The session ended with a breathing relaxation exercise and a discussion of what resources were available should participants need any counselling.

The impact of the role play was confirmed by some participants referring to this session as one of their highlights in the project as it made them think about the issues around gender-based violence from all perspectives.

Selby of South Roots International joins in the discussion from Namibia where he is working with a community.

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