This mental health art exhibit is therapy and art form

Named after the Russian word which very roughly translates to a kind of sadness that cannot be placed, Toska is an upcoming mental health art exhibit that aims to pull off what psychiatrists and straightforward articles can’t always pull off: engage the public about mental illness in unique, unconventional ways.

Sie Macha and Murphy Katigbak are the two event organizers at the helm of the project. The idea for the exhibit came to Sie during her personal battle with depression, and how it interfered with the professional and financial aspects of her life. “It made me realize that if I had a stable job and still have a hard time financing my medication, what more the others who do not have a stable income?”

A personal and specific experience, sure, but there is universality to be found in highly specific experiences, and it goes to show that Toska is an exhibit that aims not to portray a single, unified image of mental illness but a myriad of experiences. When Sie and Macha started collecting submitted artworks, the results were huge: the exhibit will feature over 70 creative minds who’ve wrestled with the topic of mental health through various media, from painting to photography to paper cutting to poetry.

If you’re skeptical about how therapeutic or comforting an art exhibit can be, perhaps Murphy can reassure you. “I read somewhere that ‘Art should disturb the comforted, and comfort the disturbed,’ and I believe that’s one of the reasons why art is powerful. Instead of being fed with information, people are moved,” she says. “They get to make sense of their feelings and decide what it means to them on their own.”

It is an emotionally driven project, yes, but the primary goal of Toska is still to educate. “I think people need to be more open and educated about mental health issues,” Sie says. “They need to know that these are real illnesses, and not just a mindset. People need to listen and make these people feel that they are not alone.” Well, that’s 70 people who submitted creative work, and as of writing this, over 600 people who clicked going on the event page. Those living in anguish certainly aren’t alone, and can head over to Toska to see in the works of other people what they perhaps wish others might see in them.


Toska will be taking place at Commune Cafe in Poblacion, Makati, on April 6, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more details, head on over to Toska’s event page on Facebook.

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