September 22, 2022

Beyond Words: Shadow Art Therapy Offers Comfort in Coping with Grief

In 2022, more than 100 million individuals were displaced worldwide because of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations. This accounts for an increase of 10.7 million people displaced from the end of the previous year. In a matter of a few months, the world’s forcibly displaced population reached the highest ever on record. This includes 26.6 million refugees in the world—the highest ever seen.
As the number of refugees increase, one of the most unnoticed challenges is the existence of homesickness. Being pushed into exile and unable to return home may result in emotional, cognitive, behavioural and physical adversities. To address this and to heal and change personal hardships, Dr Dalal Makari, a therapist from Germany showcased a shadow puppetry show titled ‘Wrinkles on Waves’ at The 22nd Sharjah International Narrator Forum (SINF) which runs under the theme "Tales of the Seas".
This year’s forum focuses on several topics about the seas and will be presented through stories and novels. With 160 participants from 44 countries, in-depth stories on the Gulf, Arab and international seas will be told by several well-known personalities. Dr Makari’s ‘Wrinkles on Waves’ aimed to bring to focus the unstable lives of refugees. Her shadow puppetry brought to surface the difficulties and challenges posed by the refugees, along with the mental trauma that comes with not feeling at home.
According to Dr Makari, shadow art therapy is perfect for suffering individuals and can lead to transformation and therapeutic change. Creating or connecting with art can be a healing experience for some people and can serve as a safe and secure transitional space.
“Shadow art therapy is a method of therapeutic support or counselling. Unlike traditional counselling which involves talking, shadow art therapy uses props and puppets. We use puppets in association with music and the aim is to support individuals relieve pain and loss, as well as express thoughts easily,” added Dr Makari.
Shadow art therapy can be useful for anyone who has gone through trauma, not just refugees. As the therapy helps regulate emotions, it is an effective tool to manage sadness or anger when grieving. Being an indirect form of therapy, shadow art therapy makes mental healing and wellbeing accessible to anyone regardless of different cultural norms.
“Shadow art is a wonderful therapy that supports individuals in distinguished ways. It not only creates a sense of expression, but also creates a sense of community. It does not distinguish and is gradually showing itself as an effective, simple and socially proficient tool to explore mental health issues and psychological conflict,” said Dr Makari.
With increasing power of shadow art, therapists that attended Sharjah International Narrator Forum (SINF) pledged to use this form of art as a key solution to bridge the gaps in conversations and strengthen individuals in their process of moving from an old to a new environment.