Meeting Circles


Welcome to the first edition of the South African National Arts Therapies Association’s (SANATA) online magazine: Beyond Words: celebrating the practice, reflections and innovations of the arts therapies in South Africa.

This magazine was born out of a need for a thorough, current, stimulating and professional resource that captures the work of arts therapists in South Africa. To this end, Beyond Words curates case studies, articles, reflections, and artwork from drama, art, music and dance/movement therapists and trainees working within South Africa. It is our hope to illustrate the potency of these therapeutic modalities within this country, explore how they have taken shape in this context, and understand what they offer those needing mental health support.  So often, arts therapies work beyond words, and our vision for this magazine is to illustrate this through a variety of rich, creative contributions. We believe this can be a resource for continued professional development, collaboration across mental health modalities, advocacy and maturation of the arts therapies in South Africa.

About the theme

The theme for our first edition is access. In the South African context that we live in, mental health needs are immense. It is thus important to ensure that mental health services on multiple levels are accessible to South African citizens. Various members of the SANATA community go far and beyond to work towards this vision: creating mental health support that is accessible to various communities, regardless of the contexts or backgrounds that individuals may come from. The arts therapies allow for engagements that honour the individual within a community, which correlates with the African perspective: that health is collective and communal, and supported by each individual within this.
This edition of Beyond Words creates an opening for the broader public to access the world of the arts therapies, the work that is being done in various communities, and the various modalities accessible within the arts therapies. 

About the content

This issue opens with our Arts Circle which emphasises creative and artistic contributions that speak to the theme of access

In the Sharing Our Stories section, the articles of Caley, Boitumelo and Kate offer an exploration of their respective therapeutic modalities: art, drama and music. They muse on their experiences of the arts as a means to access self, strength, relationship, change and transformation of those they work with, and also for themselves. 

Our last two contributions for this section share the work of Intlantsi and sp(i)eel arts therapies collective, two organisations that promote the work of the arts therapies beyond the clinical setting – contributing to psychosocial health and healing beyond the individual. Both articles touch on the critical engagement of arts therapists as social change agents, focussing on partnerships and collaborations. Merran shares the narrative of building the Intlantsi Community Arts Centre in Lovers Twist Village in the Eastern Cape, while Marlize speaks of sp(i)eel’s development of an arts-based community model to support access to psychosocial support, and the importance of “flocking” for resilience.

The Book Circle includes summaries of two recently published books from the arts therapy community. The Happiness Workout by Noa explains how body-based exercises can help access biochemicals of happiness, while the published collective work from Drama for Life includes a wealth of contributions from practitioners in applied drama and arts therapy practice, sharing their work within Africa. This book is timeous as access to the published work of arts therapies and applied arts practitioners within South Africa is extremely limited. 

Lastly we share brief descriptions about Teachings in Practice, which describes the accredited arts therapy training available in South Africa: MA Art Therapy at University of Johannesburg, MA Drama Therapy at the University of the Witwatersrand and MA Music Therapy at the University of Pretoria.

We hope our readers enjoy the first edition of Beyond Words. May it provide our community with access to each others’ stories as well as provide an entrée for the wider public to meet the arts therapies profession in South Africa.

With kindness,

Jessica, Lebogang & Kirstie

Jessica Mayson

Jessica Mayson is a drama therapist working in Cape Town, South Africa. Jessica currently works in various settings: schools (both mainstream and inclusive), a children’s home, a home for children with chronic illnesses, private practice and in the NGO sector. Her passion is creating spaces where children can explore and strengthen parts of themselves that their circumstances have not allowed to grow and flourish.

Lebogang Mokgatle

Lebogang Mokgatle is an HPCSA registered drama therapy intern and is one of three student representatives for SANATA. He has a particular interest in incorporating innovative technologies in his therapeutic interventions in an attempt to create more access to therapy for the wider community. The various contexts that Lebogang has worked in include NGOs, school settings and a private psychiatric hospital setting. Lebogang is inclined towards embodied work that allows clients to utilize their bodies as forms of expression where words cannot express enough.

Kirstie Nel

Kirstie Nel is a HPCSA registered art therapist based in the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town. She loves green spaces and has a small art therapy studio named “Kamma” which is borrowed from the Khoe language meaning fresh- or sweet-water river. She is passionate about the connection between creativity and health, listening to the poetry of each individual and exploring how the arts can lead to deeper and multiple understandings of our stories.