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Creativity, community and selfhood: Psychosocial intervention and making art in Cape Town

Elgar, Rhoda; (2006) Creativity, community and selfhood: Psychosocial intervention and making art in Cape Town. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The context for my research has been a multicultural art studio complex and other workshops that are connected through the various actors utilising and facilitating them. My research has sought to map the role of psychosocial intervention in the organising and managing of these organisations, the aims and intentions of them, and the minutiae of daily interactions between the different actors involved. Psychosocial intervention is a form of pastoral care based on the belief that a whole community or nation can be in need of psychological healing. Healing is considered to be realisable through facilitating self-realisation. Psychosocial intervention also shares much similarity with the saliency of art-making as held by many art educators and therapists, with the idea that art-making is a necessary activity for the promotion and development of healthy individuals and communities. Psychosocial intervention lends itself well to requests for facilitating cross-racial communication. This has much pertinence in Cape Town where it is drawn on as a resource in a society striving to shed its segregated past and embrace multiculturalism. In this context making art comes to have a moralistic role in the moulding of responsible individuals. Art-making is believed to represent self-knowledge, and artists deemed successful are those whose art can be considered to reflect this. This is achieved through using art techniques and practices which privilege representing the individuated self, rather than commenting on broader socio-political issues, and is commonly conceived as being a form of abstraction, accompanied with rhetorical declarations alluding to personal liberation. It is not rebellious or threatening to the project of building a new sanitized multicultural community, which is the expected outcome of participating at the studio-complex for a period of time, or experiencing the intense rite of passage entailed in participating at a workshop. Although this notion of art-making is drawn on by various groups in Cape Town as a means to becoming successful artists, its main beneficiaries are white South Africans, particularly women, who have come to have influential roles as facilitators of psychosocial projects in and beyond Cape Town's art community. Notions of transformation and realisation are common parlance in psychosocial intervention and are used to describe the experience of art-making, and are evocative of liberation but also the avant-garde. However, the realisation of these ideals is more complex than the simplistic declarations allow for. I argue that psychosocial intervention comes to act, not only as a guide in the managing of interactions, but also as a buffer in the dissemination and practice of criticism a phenomenon, which I argue has the potential to be an agent in the challenging and redistribution of power in Cape Town's art community, as well as more widely. Emotional literacy is favoured over intellectual literacy, as it is assumed to be more inclusive. This plays into perceived notions of feminine virtues while denying socio-economic differences, which has consequences for the manifestation of (white) power in Cape Town.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Creativity, community and selfhood: Psychosocial intervention and making art in Cape Town
Identifier: PQ ETD:591966
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest. Third party copyright material has been removed from the ethesis. Images identifying individuals have been redacted or partially redacted to protect their identity.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1444657
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