Sunday, May 19, 2019

Shoushan H. Frangi

Behind the Wall

When we use the phrase “behind the wall,” I often wonder which wall we are talking about. Is it the wall surrounding the most holy city in the world? Or is it the wall surrounding the human body which carries its deep-rooted stories of love and hate, joy and suffering, humiliation and injustice inflicted upon it by fellow citizens?

The institute I work at, Spafford Children’s Center, is located right behind the massive wall that surrounds the Old City of Jerusalem. The people that come to the center are unique. They all carry heavy loads of interesting—and sad— stories that I could not even begin to talk about here. I will focus instead on the story of one of the group members whom I will call “Mother A.”

The room where intermodal expressive arts therapy takes place is located right behind the wall. We can see the wall and hear the commotion of the outside world. Every one of us has a special story to tell. We use our body, our senses and the intermodality of the arts to communicate our stories. We, as a group, are witness to the suffering that each individual inside the designated space is experiencing.

in this space


We sit in a circle; new faces and new experiences. There is a lit candle on top of an embroidered tablecloth at the center of the room. There is a great deal of tension and apprehension of the unexpected. I begin by introducing myself and by making oral contracts. My main concentration is on the confidentiality issue. I stress the fact that whatever is said inside this space will stay in this space. We are not to share or discuss anything outside this room so that each and every one of us will feel free to express herself. In the weeks that follow, different warm-up exercises are administered, including movement and touch which help the rigidity in the body to untangle and which facilitate the opening up of emotions. In this process, many tears flowed, and the group started to attend to each other�s needs; an atmosphere of trust came to fill the empty space.

Mother A had used harsh words on her 12-year-old son for neglecting his schoolwork. His punishment was that for one whole week he would attend to his studies only and would not be allowed outdoors. He went to school the next day still feeling angry with his mother for the punishment he received. That day he was shot and killed for throwing stones at the soldiers. Not only was his mother devastated by the terrible loss of her beloved son, she was also carrying a heavy load of guilt for having punished her son one day before his murder. She had unfinished business with her son that weighed her down. When she moved, it felt like her feet were chained with heavy metal cuffs. Her posture was bent towards the ground, and she hardly made any eye contact with the other members of the group. She was very quiet; tears were constantly flowing from her eyes. It took a long time for her to interact with the group. There was a lot of resistance. I did not push her to share or do anything she was not ready to do. I was very happy that she was the first to arrive to the weekly sessions. I knew that when she was ready she would interact with others.

One day, after a month had passed, she got up on her feet, took a brush and some paint and started painting. She drew a circle on a piece of paper hanging on the wall. She used many colours, but at the end she covered the whole circle with black. She did not want to share what the emerging image, the �third,� was telling her. I felt that it was a great step forward that she was holding a brush and drawing. Her body was moving slightly with the brush and paint. After a few more times of drawing the same picture, she started drawing another one, using two colours, black and red. This picture was of a uterus with a fetus inside it, surrounded by the colour red. Then she drew a woman surrounded by a wall, tears running down from her eyes, with a stretcher made out of the Palestinian flag. She then started playing with clay. She made a tomb and a woman kneeling beside it, with both her hands pulling at her hair and tears flowing down her cheeks. I felt that with every transfer to another artistic modality, she was getting ready to face her pain and suffering. She turned to music, choosing a drum and monotonously drumming the mourning beat. She then took her chair and turned it to face the wall. She began to sing songs of lamentation in a very low voice, slowly moving to a higher pitch.

Each member of the group was dealing with her own suffering and with the �third� that was emerging…

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Posted by EGS Press on April 15, 2004
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