Lefika La Phodiso: Healing through art


Mathiba Molefe

At Lefika La Phodiso’s open studio sessions, along with the many other group sessions the organisation runs, youth can express themselves in a safe, non-judgemental environment. (Image: Lefika La Phodiso, via Facebook)

The visual arts, while not the first thing to come to mind when you think of therapy, have huge potential in promoting social well-being and dealing with some of the hardships faced daily by some South Africans.

By tapping into this potential and making art therapy more accessible to those who can benefit from it, Lefika La Phodisa Art Therapy Centre hopes to address some of the issues facing South Africans.

“It’s got nothing to do with being able to draw; it’s got nothing to do with having a talent of representing what you see,” explains Andy Cohen, one of the community art counsellors at Lefika La Phodiso. “It’s about representing what you feel, and it’s about the process.”

Art is an exciting approach to therapy, partly because it has the ability to overcome boundaries of language, culture and class, while also allowing each individual to express themselves in a space that is nurturing and free of judgement.

To spread the benefits of arts therapy countrywide, Lefika La Phodiso offers training to aspiring therapists. In exchange, these therapists dedicate some of their time to youth and community centres working with Lefika.


“I think, especially with Lefika, we work with a lot of disadvantaged kids who come during open studio or one of the many other groups that we run,” says Humbu Nsenga, one of the many community art counsellors working with Lefika La Phodiso, the rock of holding.

“When they do come and express themselves and they come to a place where you feel safe and you’re not being judged, and we give them a place to relate to adults in a different way.”

To spread the benefits of arts therapy countrywide, Lefika La Phodiso offers training to aspiring therapists. In exchange, these therapists dedicate some of their time to youth and community centres working with Lefika.

By giving people the necessary training and expertise to be counsellors, Lefika La Phodiso hopes to empower them to make a difference in their own communities.

“I think, for me, it’s a way that I can use my form of communication to empower other people to use it as well in a helpful way,” explains Kamal Naran, another community art counsellor.

Dr Hayley Berman, an art psychotherapist and clinical director at Lefika La Phodiso, began her work following her return to South Africa after completing her studies in the UK. This was before Nelson Mandela was elected as president.

“There was a lot of work to be done, particularly in areas most affected by violence. So a lot of my work was based there and it was from there that the need became absolutely apparent around people needing to do more of what art therapy can offer.”

Watch Derek Fowler Productions – Lefika La Phodiso – The Art Therapy Centre:


Lefika La Phodiso often hosts volunteers from South Africa and abroad and encourages those who are serious about making a contribution to join the organisation.

If you are interested in taking part in Lefika’s activities and feel you are ready to learn more about what goes into art therapy, you can have a look at its collaborate page on its website to find out more.

The therapy centre extends the same invitation to organisations that either are, or are looking to align themselves with Lefika’s objectives to ensure sustainability and effectiveness. If your organisation is interested in joining forces with Lefika La Phodiso, visit its collaborate page for more information.

Like many organisations working for the benefit of those in need, Lefika La Phodiso relies on the generosity of individuals and corporations to help it meet the cost of operation. If you would like to make a donation to the cause, visit the collaborate page for its banking details.

Donations of equipment and other resources are also welcomed; there is a wish list of the most urgent needs on the website.


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