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Joshua Chapata- Addressing Mental Health Issues, One Painting at a Time


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Joshua Chapata- Addressing Mental Health Issues, One Painting at a Time

Ushingi Hwatinawo – The Courage We Have
by Joshua Chapata

Unfolding scenes of friendly conversations at the marketplace accompanied by moments of laughter, the spirited displays of dance and song that energize socials gatherings and nature’s beauty that comes with each season. All these inspire the paintings of 32-year-old Zimbabwean abstract expressionist, Joshua Chapata. However, for this visual artist who is currently based in Harare, the country’s capital, art goes beyond being just a mirror of everyday realities but it’s also a functional tool that can help individuals to vent mental ills that often lead to anxiety and depression. For that reason, Joshua started the Art therapy initiative which is slowly gaining popularity in Zimbabwe.

The self-taught creative’s attempt at addressing mental health issues through the Art therapy sessions consists of interested individuals joining him on a painting journey. No prior experience with visual art is required for the participants. It is within the rough scribbles and preferred blend of colors that Joshua believes one can be able to find their voice, venting haunting ills on either loss, grief or trauma and express themselves better in a manner in which speech might be deficient to properly pronounce. The soft-spoken visual storyteller who has led over 50 sessions in Zimbabwe since 2019 says the idea took root in his mind when he was wrestling with personal demons that made him question if he had sufficient strength to face another day. Whenever Joshua felt burdened and defeated, he switched to his canvas, paints and brushes, immediately he would experience a moment of calm, “When I was in the creation process it would be sort of like a relief period where actually I felt at peace and more relaxed. It was one of those wow moments and again with the way that I had studied mental health I then was struck by a eureka moment and was like what happens if I fuse art and therapy using it as a tranquil place.”

Kumdunirana – Embracing. By Joshua Chapata

The Art therapy sessions, where no one is judged or scrutinized based on the created paintings, have not only been an outlet for emotional load but it has been a welcome haven where new friendship ties are created. The power of art in this respect always spreads its magic in the atmosphere and it’s something Joshua attests to, “Visual art is a powerful medium and with the way in which we are doing it, it then creates a safe space environment where these meet-ups have brought new friendships. Those who participate depart from the meeting point knowing that they are a part of one big family where one is free to express himself or herself and where mistakes are not frowned upon.”

Besides this initiative, Joshua has been creating unique pieces that touch on profound messages. One of his recent works is a painting titled ‘Ushingi Hwatinawo’ which are Shona words translating to ‘The courage we have’. In this painting, he sheds light on the plight of African women who are expected to carry out all duties with diligence irrespective of their weight and are expected to show up for their children and husbands while taking on new tasks every day which puts a strain on their mental health. In another piece titled ‘Kumbundirana’ which means ‘Embracing’ Joshua delves into the values of Ubuntu where unity, compassion and support are portrayed as key pillars in the survival of Africa and its people even in the face of challenges like mental health.

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As the crimson sun hides its face with each passing day, Joshua Chapata always reminds himself that art is actually an essential way of life that is worthy of being appreciated. Through art, the continent’s challenges and possible solutions are projected.      

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