Healing Through Art for Victims of Crime

By Colin McGregor

The Centre de services de justice réparatrice (The Centre for Services in Restorative Justice, or CSJR) organizes art therapy sessions and poetry slams with an eye to helping victims and aggressors alike crawl out of their vicious circle of recrimination and bitterness.

For victims, it’s a chance to have their pain and their experience heard and be recognized, an important part of the healing process.

To that end, recently, they organized a pop-up art exhibition at a restaurant near the Jean Talon metro station. Entitled Croisements de vie – Mon histoire derrière l’œuvre (Life crossings – my story behind the artwork) offered people directly and indirectly touched by violence the opportunity to express themselves in both English and French, through art and photography and poetry.

After a long lock-down because of Covid, it was an intense face-to-face experience. As victim after victim got up to express their experience, strength and hopes, they asserted their rights to be there, and we felt their pain and joy.

Art therapy is an effective way to help the healing process among those who have been affected directly or indirectly by violent crime.

Says CSJR Director Estelle Drouvin, as quoted in La Presse in 2018, “One of the myths is to associate restorative justice with forgiveness. We offer a safe space for people to re-establish their broken confidence due to a crime or violence. What we have to take into account, along the way, is that forgiveness is an effect, even if it isn’t a goal in and of itself.”

One of the artists at the show writes: “Art allows us to get in touch with our soul, to free ourselves from the chains, and rediscover the beauties of life.”

All works are available on the Gallea website. Gallea is Canada’s largest on-line art gallery. The texts cited are written by the artists themselves.

Belonging to Self

Autumn, 2021

This painting depicts two parts of self, the adult self who owns their femininity and the child self who is comfortable with being vulnerable, together they move away from the protected space of the veil.

Cette chère main

Fadis, 2020

Mixed technique: acrylic paint, mortar, epoxy. After a workplace accident, robbed of the use of my left arm, I wrote these words: “My dear, sweet hand” which inspired this painting. The two hands on the painting represent the left hand and its signs of life. “With my hand appears a branch… (the stages of life)… From my hand emerge colors (the beauties of life) Take one’s hand to accompany, Or guide This child On their journey… (what is important in life, love) With my Hand I make. From my hand I am. With my hand I create.”

La solitude flottante

Sabrina Morneau, 2021

Closed up in her little internal island, the child is isolated from the universe. She attentively observes what is around her, neither participating nor belonging to it. She seems choked off, disconnected, trapped. Huddled against a false sense of security, she innocently falls asleep. But is she really alone in the world? Memory represented: When I was a child, my family and I lived in an ordinary suburb. Even though I was surrounded by friends and neighbors, I felt profoundly alone and isolated. I had the impression that I wasn’t living on the same planet as others, and that it was impossible to truly connect with them. We didn’t speak the same language and we didn’t share the same reality.

L’origine du Mad .09

Bizoucarajou, 2020

The origins of Mad are an ode to the capacity to sublimate the monsters that inhabit us. My creatures are the reflection of the sordid beasts that haunt us as well as the heroes that exist inside us, even if we fight them and tame them. If we accept the collective mythology that we are the sum of our shadows, let’s hope we are equal to taming the light we need to fight them. Art is there like the imprints in time of things we knew and thought. It is proof that, even if violated and baffled, perverse and narcissistic, things we ignore once existed.

Then it’s up to the observer to do the work of seeing farther than the work itself. At least, for the works for which the artist has issued an invitation to share this. Everyone can look at this portrait that only asks to be seen by whoever wants to see it. It’s not enough to show to be seen, just as it’s not enough just to talk to be listened to. It’s for all those unsaid messages because we don’t know who to talk to, for all those ignored manifestations that I create today. For those mini-revolts inside resonate from my studio to you, in the hopes that other spirits, haunted by other darknesses, are touched by these echoes and can sink to their own depths, and eventually, into infinity. BizouCarcajou   

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