By Myles Matarise
MENTAL health experts have called on authorities to desist from politicising drug abuse issues saying instead, there was a need to give an ear to the youth who are the most affected.
Speaking on the sidelines of theatrical production titled ‘Taura’ which was showcased at Reps Theatre in Harare over the weekend, director of the project, Tafadzwa Bob Mutumbi, a Zimbabwean physical theatre practitioner said he combined song, dance, dialogue and poetry in this latest stage production that highlights critical issues.
“The theatrical seeks to show matters of mental health and wellbeing through the eyes of young people.
“The subject has been overly politicised to an extent that when young people rise to speak out, they are labeled as political and ruffling the wrong feathers.
“It’s a conversation that we need to have and be honest about if we are to truly fight this elephant in the room of drug and substance abuse,” Mutumbi said.
Professor of International Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and health researcher Rashid Ferrand said there was an urgent need for Zimbabwe to improve the health and wellbeing of young people.
“We want to hear the voice of young people and we often do research around the subject of mental health and wellbeing but it’s different when we hear from the horse’s mouth.
“The show brings together those voices talking about those issues and how they confront them on a daily basis in their communities.
“It seeks to empower youth where they feel disempowered, voiceless and powerless to express how they feel and other severe mental health issues,” Ferrand said.
The event was sponsored by Health Research Unit Zimbabwe (THRU ZIM) a Zimbabwean based organisation that uses creative means to champion well-being in societies.
The theatrical chronicles the lives of Zimbabwean youth; their views on health, the journey towards finding their voice as well as reclaiming their well-being.
Twelve young performers drawn from different communities around Zimbabwe delivered a heart touching and thought-provoking piece that expressed what it means to stand alone fighting depression, trauma and how mental health and well-being are being threatened by the different enemies of drug abuse and deferred dreams especially among the young people.
Tino Michelle Mavimba, the coordinator of Art of Health, said it was “a moving spectacle to see young people express health and mental wellbeing issues through the creative arts”.
On his part, Paul Gwatidzo a student at the University of Zimbabwe and the lead character in the show told the Daily News that he wished that the message that ‘Taura’ brings “is able to resonate with young people and help them confront mental health issues in a sustainable manner”.
The Art of Health initiative was started in 2020 and has so far afforded thousands of young people across Zimbabwe with an opportunity to express themselves within the sphere of health-related themes through various mediums of art ranging from music, film and visual arts.
This comes as Zimbabwe is currently grappling with high cases of drug and substance abuse.
This has seen President Emmerson Mnangagwa setting up an inter-ministerial committee to tackle the issue.