Artwork inspires hope

Cohen van der Leer, 18, and Ghusain Gallie, 17, from Cedar High School of the Arts, in Rocklands, designed the latest chocolate wrappers by Chocolate Time.

The designs of three Cedar High School pupils are due be printed on exclusive chocolate wrappers, after their work inspired hope and recovery in mental health.

The artwork of pupils of the arts-focus Rocklands school, Cohen van der Leer, 18, and Ghusain Gallie, from Morgen’s Village, 17, Emelio Judd, 17, Eastridge, together with two pupils from the Peter Clarke Art Centre, in Claremont, will be credited in the inside of the packaging of Chocolate Time, which is sold online.

All proceeds of the halaal chocolate, flavours Maxi Belgian, Milk, Dark, Black or sugar-free, are sold in sets of five for R350 andd will go towards the development and upkeep of The Spring Foundation projects at Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital.

Their designs were exhibited at the Child and Family Unit at Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital last week. Later this month, they will be on display at the University of Cape Town’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine from Thursday November 15.

Ghusain said he was excited because people were going to buy a product with his design on it. “People say that they are ‘mad’ but I don’t believe them. After doing this project I’ve realised and seen that they are normal and can improve on their mental health,” he said.

He said they were tasked with designing a wrapper to encourage patients to get better soon.

“We had to use leafy colours mostly and then add some contrast colour,” he said.

Emelio said: “It’s kwaai. I’m proud of my work.”

He said the project helped him improve his art skills. “A highlight of the project for me was to visit Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital and finding out about the foundation.

“I see mental health differently and not how others see mental health patients.

“Other people put them in a box. They are ‘mal’, like they are not part of the community.

“They are not ‘mal’, they are normal just like us. They have unique gifts and talents, which are just hidden for them,” he said.

Emelio said they had families, they had backgrounds and were loved in specific ways.

Deputy principal Chulaine Afrika said it was an amazing opportunity for the pupils to see their creative skills.

She said it also improved the way in which they see patients challenged with mental health.

“I am very very proud that our pupils had this opportunity but also humbled by the great work being done at the Spring Foundation and Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital,” she said.

The foundation, a non-profit organisation established in 2012, is the brainchild of psychiatrist Dr John Parker and was established jointly to green the hospital and change the perception people have of mental health.

It also offers gardening, which is used in a range of psychosocial rehabilitation and outreach projects to re-establish a sense of hope and recovery through re-connection to the natural world and to community, identity and heritage.

The pupils went on a tour of the market garden and attended an informative mental health session.

Each pupil was then instructed to design a chocolate wrapper depicting their understanding of issues related to mental illness and mental health care, the challenges faced by psychiatric institutions and the aims of the Spring Foundation.

“The realisation that mental health is key for the success of a healthy society was visibly understood by the students and captured in the artwork they produced,” said Dr Parker.

He said the funds would allow the Spring Foundation to continue to develop new models of how to foster hope and recovery in mental health care.

The life-partner of chocolatier Bobbie Fitchen was a former in-patient at Lentegeur Hospital diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which gave Ms Fitchen a profound desire to give back to the facility in honour of her loved one.

“I was informed about the Spring Foundation and the remarkable market garden initiative. My partner was a chef and her passion for food complemented the work being done at the market garden,” she said.