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Sunday Times 2

Art therapy for traumatised youth in Kashmir valley

Youngsters pick up their paintbrushes to express themselves
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‘There is a reflection of anger, rage and depression in Kashmiri art,’ says Dena Lawrence, an Australian art psychotherapist, who this week displayed art work by her students in a Srinagar college.

Black was the predominant colour in almost all the paintings. The programme, ‘A Path with Art: Expressing Untold Kashmir’ attracted a large number of art lovers.

The students attend art classes run by Australian Dena Lawrence (pictured right)

Most of the paintings depicted turbulence, suffering, depression and anger. Dena, who is elated by the response to the programme, calls it an expression of transgenerational trauma. ‘We are inspired to continue this work because of the response and the people’s needs,’ Dena, who visited Kashmir by chance in June 2010, when the Valley was in rage against the killing of teenagers, says.

‘I met a Kashmiri in Kerala, who insisted that I should visit the Valley. I was scared but I thought ‘let me visit the place’.
Here, I was touched by the degree of suffering and trauma. I saw a land of beauty and innocence alongside trauma and suffering,’ she says.
‘Kashmir is a land of mystics, poets and artisans and I wondered how I could use my skills as an art therapist to assist people in finding relief through art therapy,’ Dena adds.

She talked to students of different streams and formulated a community-based art therapy programme.
Now, Dena visits the Valley once a year, stays there for 20 days and gives intensive training to her students about colours and how to use them.
And once she is back in Australia, she communicates with her students online. Irfa Amin, who is a student of mass communication and journalism in Kashmir University, joined Dena’s classes in 2011.

She loves to use the black colour. ‘In my every painting you can see Kashmir. There is depression and anger but there is also hope. You can see hope in my paintings.

‘I love to express my feelings through these colours. It gives me immense pleasure,’ she says.
Saba Naseer, a student of literature, also loves black. To her, it is the colour of ultimate reality. Hina Arif, who is a student of fine arts at Jamia Millia Islamia, has painted a woman in the nude. The woman is shown sitting on the ground.

‘The painting reflects the helplessness of the half-widow, whose husband has disappeared. She is helpless. That is why I painted her nude.
‘She is also hopeless. That is why I used black colour,’ says Hina.

Daily Mail, London

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