Boipelo Rakau

Artist Catalogue

Virtual Exhibition

Help Yourself

My work reflects on my journey of finding healing from depression through art. As a black person, I was brought up in a community that held misconceptions about mental health-related issues due to the lack of knowledge. According to their understanding, mental health-related issues such as depression are often misconstrued as signs of weakness, results of witchcraft or thought to result from excessive movie-watching, studying, or reading. Upon my realization that I was battling with post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from childhood trauma, I mustered the courage to seek support from my mother. However, the response was an immediate dismissal, as the topic proved uncomfortable and demanded a confrontation on some matters she was unwilling to engage in.

This is when I sought refuge in art to process my feelings, to get to know and understand my emotions, to express myself and let out all the pain I was holding in. I explore the concept of home and the quality of child upbringing and refer to the Tswana saying, “Gaabo motho go thebe phatswa”, which loosely translates to “There is no place like home” with an emphasis on a sense of acceptance, security, and nurture from or by the place and the people close to us. As a kid, I was taught that phrase to always remember that no matter where I found myself around the world, I should always know who I am, and I should never forget where I came from, but I never thought I would remember home as a long wish to be somewhere else. I do not remember home as a place that forms part of my identity, or a place of nurture. I remember home for its emotional scars on my mind. I remember home as the first place I learnt to run away from. I remember home as a place that I am trying to forget. And up to this day, I look at myself comforting others with the words I wish to hear because so much of what I learnt about love was taught by the people who never really loved me.

When I think of home, I turn into myself and continue to search. And maybe, just maybe, in another universe, home is not a place that I always chase. In essence, the working process is a collaboration between the mind and the hands; the same amount of time that I spend working is the same one that I spend thinking, reflecting, self-discovering, self-introspecting, and deliberately choosing to discard painful memories while cherishing the positive ones. It is a personal journey of healing and letting go because I am no longer a victim but the narrator of the story.

Heal so you don’t bleed all over people who didn’t cause the pain. Heal so you can discover the happiness of wholeness - Kayil York