How can art be used to prevent infectious diseases in rural Sub-Saharan Africa?

What is the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning? I open my eyes! I open my eyes, not to the roof or the sky, not to the wall or the emptiness, not to the pillow or the floor. I open my eyes to the magnificent art of the world around me and the one inside me: my body, this temple of art. Have you noticed the activeness, the colours, and the abstract and concrete figures mixing to give the beautiful being you are? I have! As much as this temple is radiant, it is subject to many external influences, sometimes harmful, like the ugly impostors that try to infest it. They often succeed and destroy the figures, fade the colours, and stop all activities in the temple. Numerous security systems have been established in the temple to ensure the protection of the art that are there, yet, the ugly imposters still manage to accomplish their dirty task. As a host of such a temple, how can I not be compelled to action? But why, in the first place, should I bother to find out how we can use art to protect the temple, our body, from the ugly impostors, the microbes and viruses causing infectious diseases? Let me lead you through how I came to ask myself this question.

First things first, passion. Can we really talk about passion when we have not experienced the field or the topic in question? I believed for 18 years, rather 15, that health was my passion until one of my teachers, Mr O, pointed out that we could not really be passionate about something we have not experienced yet. So, I will just say that I have been very much interested in health since my childhood, mostly because of the environment in which I grew up, the suffering due to diseases and the desperate need for health I saw around me. As for art, my attention was not grabbed as early. I started by just drawing flowers, then houses that I was planning to build when I grow up, dancing at any song I would hear and always leading the role play games we never forgot to do with my friends. I started getting attached to arts when my dad started supporting my performances and kept on encouraging me to continue. As the time passed, I developed a passion that one I can say, for arts, I kept on practising and eventually I got better and better. Now, how did I come to the idea of combining both my passion and my interest?

As I mentioned before, I see human bodies as a temple of art, in the sense that no creativity can match the one in there. What better way to protect this art by using art? What is more compatible with art than art? I decided to go beyond my will of keeping both my passion and my interest to go and combine them so that I can work on both at the same time. So far, numerous scientists have researched ways to use arts to enhance health by taking a treatment approach. Most of the current means, such as Art Therapy have been designed to repair emotional damage or choc, or to enhance our reaction to medication. I believe in the popular African proverb saying that “better preventing than treating”, means in this context that focusing on preventing diseases is more efficient than trying to treat them. Hence, I want to contribute in filling the gap left by the current treatment methods. But then, why am I focusing on infectious diseases and sub-Saharan Africa? Well, I am an African but before all, I am human. According to the UC Atlas of Global Inequality, 1/3 of overall deaths in the world are caused by infectious diseases, and sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most severely exposed region among the less rich parts of the world. I virtually coped with infectious diseases my whole life. Time has come to try to give a better chance to future generations, and I am not going to stay away from the battle.

Significant progress has been made but the proportions remain the same, what makes me think that maybe, current medicine alone is not enough to prevent these diseases and need more support. How can I ensure that using art as a medium could possibly make any difference? I cannot! And that is the reason why I am embarking on this boat to find out how the temple can be protected using art. Would you get on board with me?

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