Zakheni Transformative Arts Centre

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Zakheni Transformative Arts Centre

The Zakheni Transformative Arts Centre is a registered nonprofit organisation that provides psychological and emotional support to children, adolescents and adults through the medium of the creative arts therapies. It was founded in 2001 by art therapist Linda Souchon and dramatherapist Kirsten Meyer. Zakheni is a dynamic, multicultural creative team that ignites healing, insight, collaboration and learning among children, youth and their communities, in order to create positive futures.

Zakheni’s core business is providing creative arts workshops, training and supervision for child and youth care workers, dramatherapy in schools and the use of transformational theatre, in order to strengthen psychosocial support service to vulnerable children. Zakheni contracts the services of a collection of art, drama, music and play therapists who work in collaboration with community arts practitioners.

Core Values:

  • Integrity
  • Collaboration
  • Professionalism
  • Growth and Learning
  • Creativity
  • Wellbeing
  • Transformation


  • Provide psychological and emotional support services to children, adolescents and adults through the medium of the creative arts therapy;
  • Partner with like-minded organisations in order to develop their capacity to provide effective, child appropriate psychosocial support programmes;
  • Provide community creative arts psycho-social support services;
  • Enhance and support the wellbeing of care workers and health professionals;
  • Actively promote the field of arts therapies by being a leading organisation in the field, creating work for arts therapists, mentoring artists interested in pursuing the field and being a key player in the development of recognised training courses for arts therapists.

Current Projects:
The FireMaker Project
The project is a series of four, three-day workshops which are specifically designed to deepen the psychosocial support capacity of child and youth care workers. The course focuses on experiential learning and equips participants with creative techniques in psychosocial support. Various activities such as storytelling, puppet making, art and music activities are explored, as well as basic theory relating to child development and resilience building.
The Wellbeing Project
This is a three-day workshop that aims to equip child care workers with the necessary skills to care for their own wellbeing in the challenging work they do with vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS, poverty and conflict. Where possible the workshop is followed by an on-going wellbeing support group.
Zakheni’s Schools Creative Arts Therapy Project
The project aims to offer a holding, creative space where young people are encouraged in their expression, supported in building resilience and developing their skills in art and drama. Creative arts therapists work together with arts practitioners over a 26-week process culminating in a performance or exhibition, which speaks out about issues which young people face.
The Bonfire Theatre Project is a Transformational Theatre Company
Bonfire incorporates aspects of playback theatre, traditional storytelling and dramatherapy to celebrate real life stories in a powerful and accessible way to facilitate the transformation of people’s attitudes towards one another, their own experiences and how they can face their future. Bonfire’s central purpose is the honouring of stories that emerge from the daily lives of ordinary South Africans. The Bonfire Theatre Project was established in August 2005 and aims to contribute towards creating a space where transformation in South African can take place.
Beyond Words
Beyond Words is a three day workshop that equips clinical social workers, clinical and educational psychologists, occupational therapists and registered counsellors to use arts-based methods and techniques in their work with children, adolescents, adults and older people. These methods are drawn from internationally developed creative arts therapies’ disciplines. The skills and experiences gained by participants can be adapted to and incorporated in many work spheres, both individual and group. Participants gain knowledge on how working with image, metaphor and play can facilitate psychological processes. Participants also earn 18CPD points for attendance.
Challenges and Opportunities of the FireMaker Project
Zakheni Arts Therapy Foundation is committed to facing the reality of the enormous skills shortage among care workers in facilitating psychosocial support groups for vulnerable children. The FireMaker workshops have allowed us to pass on methods and tools for exploration to such groups. A lot of the groups who participated voiced a sense of judgment and this critical voice in the past has limited creativity, specifically related to the visual arts that have prevented the use of this medium in their work. The development of self-knowledge in relation to their own capacity of play allowed the groups to realise the power of the creative arts method. This mindset also kept care workers in the practice of directing and instructing to get the expected results. The FireMaker Project shows that metaphorical work can allow the children to safely and comfortably explore themes within their own lives.
Over the course of the FireMaker workshop there is significant progress in the participants' use of their bodies and imagination as well as their ability to work within metaphor. The groups readily connect to themselves and each other particularly in playfulness, song and dance. Throughout the workshop the groups respond very positively about their learnings.  There is often a sense that there are very few resources available in some of the beneficiary organisations which Zakheni works with, and that the care workers are in need of support.  By the end of the three days, group members are able to listen and be attentive to each other in the circle, while being able to receive during the activity working with the use of imagination and concepts of giving and receiving. It does seem that some individual members are more used to giving than receiving, this is always a very important shift for them during the wellbeing workshop. The workshops often end on a high point with enthusiastic singing and dancing. There is a sense of relief from all that the workshop is not the last input for the group from Zakheni.
Participants’ Learnings:

  • Numerous care workers are amazed to discover the importance of focusing on themselves for a moment.  They discover that when they took time to care for their own needs this made a radical difference to their capacity to sleep well, to lessen old aches and pains and spend quality time with their family;
  • Care workers discover that their lives are quite seriously unbalanced towards work with very little emphasis on play, romance / adventure and physical exercise. At the end of the workshop they are open to experimenting with changing this balance and discovering the consequences;
  • Care workers experience giving to others without the need to hurt oneself in the process;
  • When care workers are given the opportunity to brainstorm around self-care and related resources at home, work and town they were able to share practical ideas.  However they do struggle to find ways to integrate self-care into the workplace;
  • Care workers make important links to self-care and self-awareness and the importance of looking after one-self in the field of care-work. They could also reflect on the impact work had on their personal lives;
  • Care workers respond strongly to the idea of ‘giving oneself permission’ to take care of oneself.  This theme was expressed almost as if to counteract the guilt that comes with taking this step;
  • Some care workers are deeply tired in the work. An exploration of personal resources revealed how drained some people feel about being a resource for others;
  • There are useful discussions about the power of the inner critic and how being a perfectionist could be destructive to one’s wellbeing;
  • Appreciating ones’ body was a strong theme that emerged with individuals enjoying celebrating their own body;
  • Some participants connected very strongly with the idea of needing to deal with issues outside of work (i.e. childhood issues or family issues) and recognised the importance of taking steps towards resolving these issues.

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