By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU
Experts in global health and culture have confirmed that art is an important factor in coping with mental Health problems and restoring peace, cohesion and well-being of the society.
This was announced on November 10th, 2021 at the launch of the Hamwe Festival, an annual event which is organized by the University of Global Health Equity in collaboration with various partners.
This year’s festival, which is the third one, is focused on the social changes that have occurred since the COVID 19 pandemic in late 2019 and the role that the art has played during the lockdown time.
Commenting on the previous Hamwe festivals, Prof. Agnes Binagwaho, the Former Rwandan Minister of health and currently the vice chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity said that “Every year there is something new and every year it is better.”
She explained that in the previous festivals “we exchanged so much with young people from all African Countries and beyond.”
Prof. Binagwaho noted that the previous festivals have been time for exchange with experts in global health from all over the world and it has helped them to dig more in what arts can fight.
“Also, it has shown that art can do so much for education, it helps people to heal quicker, it helps people to feel less pain, it helps people to feel less stress, it has also improved the wellbeing in the society and we can even see it here in Rwanda.” Prof. Binagwaho explained
“This festival that was born in Rwanda has started to impact the world.” She added
Promotion of Art in human wellbeing is not something to be neglected.
Prof. Binagwaho revealed that at the University of Global Health Equity there is the department that is partnering with the World Health Organization to figure out the role of global health and Art in the wellbeing of the people.
Prof. Binagwaho said “This is something that, as Rwandans, as people working at the University of Global Health equity, we need to be proud of because we are not following or buying like we used to do in science and health. We are creating, we are inspiring and we are driving the car.”
In fact, the University of Global Health Equity continues to do its utmost in the promotion of arts, where Prof. Binagwaho reminded that on this point the university is currently collaborating with the Rwandan Museum and there are other people including the Berlin Museum who want to join UGHE in the fight for the promotion of art that responds to the global health challenges.
As earlier mentioned, the third edition of Hamwe Festival aims at highlighting the social changes created by the COVID 19 and the role of arts in addressing those social challenges.
Prof. Binagwaho explained that “Arts played an important role”
However, she adds, “the pandemic has stressed the world where the number of mental health conditions has increased dramatically due to the lockdown, the people that have been isolated and all of these have led to the deterioration of mental health conditions.”
“Already we know that mental health is a problem that is neglected, COVID 19 has made it worse.” She explained that students have been pulled out of education, the world has seen a regression in economy, for the first time, the African Continent is ruling back the economy due to the fact that the economy has been put on hold and the health system has been disturbed.
“Imagine, every time you read the newspaper, every time you open the radio, the television, what do you hear? 4 million death, we have reached 5 million etc,… and also the injustice in the COVID 19 response globally,…so the news are not good and we have less interconnection with human and we are human being who are living in collective communities,
“When we are sad, what are we doing? We speak to loved ones, we speak to the people we know, and being alone has really brought problems to people.” Prof. Binagwaho extended her explanation on the issue of COVID19 and mental health, social life challenges.
She emphasized that people who were already suffering from mental health problems, their lives deteriorated mainly due to their inability to reach doctors following the COVID 19 prevention measures which included lockdowns put in place to control the spreading of the virus.
“Even those who have been able to see a doctor have not had enough time to talk to them while their illness requires a lot of sessions with doctors,” Prof. Binagwaho explained.
She noted that even though the situation was complicated, art was useful in helping people when they were isolated or confined due to the extraordinary circumstances caused by COVID 19.
Prof. Binagwaho highlighted that “In the community that promotes arts openly, the cohesion is higher, the social capital is higher, students perform better at school, there is less violence: 18% reduction in major crimes, 18% increase in children’s success in maths and English.”
“So, I take Maths and English to show that in science and arts we see the difference. So, it’s like art is making us more intelligent. It is making Society more cohesive, it is helping people to pass through challenging times,” She explained.
“That is what I can say: Art is really needed.” Prof. Binagwaho noted.
She reminded that the research has proven the role of Arts in the wellness of the society and for this reason “We should really see how we can do more.”
“I want to recall that our ancestral practices were always accompanied with drums and songs, etc… we need to reconnect with that. We need to do more research to see how we can help specific needs of some populations. But the most important also, we need to give evidence so that policy makers can integrate it in laws, in policies, in practices, in protocols,
“You know that bringing arts in health facilities decrease the time of hospitalization, decrease the need of the painkillers, decrease the need of medicines for stress, decrease the need of medicines for elderly, increase the satisfaction of the service, and in community, it increases the participation and the desire to be together and achieve something together.
So, if we can have more research to give more evidence to policymakers, to include arts in laws and regulations, protocols and strategies, that will contribute a lot.” Prof. Binagwago said.
While sharing his views during this year’s launch of Hamwe Festival, Rwanda’s States Minister in charge of culture in the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Bamporiki Edouard did not go too far from what Prof. Binagwaho explained because he himself as an artist knows the importance of art in solving the problems that society faces.
Bamporiki said that “the Hamwe Festival is a unique combination of Health and creativity.”
He added that “The Ministry of Culture congratulates the University of Global Health Equity to have established Hamwe Festival” noting DESPITE the fact that the culture and creative industry have been among the firsts sectors to shut their doors and most affected by the effects of COVID 19, the industry has played a role in making people stable during the pandemic.
“Everyone can imagine if we went through these lockdowns without music, poems, movies, you can imagine how life could have been!” Bamporiki said.
He also cited the role of art in the unity and reconciliation of Rwandans and the healing of the wounds caused by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, arguing that the artistic role led some to apologize and others to confess to their crimes.
“That’s why I urge everyone to respect the art and add that art moves the heart. If you want to move someone’s heart, share your views in Art. If you are a man dating and the lady is not responding, make sure that you use art, poems, songs, what you need is to use a piece of art.” Minister Bamporiki told the audience.
38 years old, Edouard Bamporiki is a Rwandan politician and artist. He currently holds a seat in the Rwandan cabinet as States Minister in charge of culture in the Ministry of Youth and Culture. Bamporiki has been a filmmaker and actor. He is also a published author and poet.