Art-therapy workshop by Nelfa

A “safe space” to get anchored and write your story

Side note: This is my first article in English (except the ones I had to write in English classes). It’s an exercise which feels a little bit scary but exciting at the same time. I had a conversation the other day with one of my dearest friends on this Earth and who is currently learning. I told her: “You know what I like the most in learning a new language? It forces you to be humble and simpler in how you talk to people and when you explain your ideas”. So that’s the spirit, and here we are.

Two weeks ago, I attended a three-hour amazing art-therapy session organized by one of my best friends, my sister and brilliant artist Nelfa or Nelly Alandou for her real name. Well, the thing is that I didn’t only attend because she’s my friend.

I have known Nelly for more than eight years and I had a front row seat at observing how she has become a great professional working as an airport consultant and how she’s been deeper into her art.

At the end of the session, she asked us for a written feedback. I think it would be interesting to share at a “larger” scale some of the key insights the workshop gave me.

A refreshing perspective on engaging with art

I always thought it was a little bit presomptuous to try to decipher the message behind an artwork piece. I am profoundly respectful of art critics’ work. But it never resonated with me on an emotional level. That said, born on an island and not having a parent nor a relative interested in, I wasn’t really raised and educated around art before my higher education. Fortunately, some initiatives like Caribeart and Nelfa’s one are game-changer.

With the workshop, I learned and understood what is “emotional painting”, as Nelfa describes herself as “an emotional painter”.

From now on, engaging with art means for me “taking ownership of my interpretations, getting in touch with personal emotions and make them a muse to write my story”.

Exit an institutional approach of art. Here, the session was linked to two key notions: mindfulness and compassion.

Discover the role of a “safe space”

For me, it sticks to three words: “vulnerability”,“community” and “creativity”.

Vulnerability: for the most emotional of us, we felt comfortable to share thoughts and deep feelings with others, while feeling safe, with no judgments. A protective bubble.

Community: we shared a lot during the session and taking one another’ lenses, even with our limits, was really valuable.

A great example was when we shared how each color may have a different meaning for each of us.

Creativity: the paintings allowed us to share our stories in a creative way. Some of us wrote poems, others stories.

A strong will to dive deeper and write my own story

Due to the complexity of my island’s and family history — Guadeloupe, a French overseas territory — I’ve always felt a strong sense of identity quest. Exploring the legacy left might be helpful to understand how we deal with emotions and other complex stuff that affect our everyday life.

Here’s an extract of what I wrote next to one of the paintings:

The caterpillar. With tons of color and light.

Lightness, colorful.

What I see embodied here: it takes a village to raise a kid.

I’m feeling light while contemplating.

Through the sorrow, through the joy, through the lightness, through the heaviness, you taught me a lot.

Being raised by you has been an honour.

Thank you Nelfa for this instructive workshop and safe space.

If she renews the operation, I will attend, for sure.

To get in touch with Nelfa or take a deeper look at what she does, click on the links below.

Instagram: @iam_nelfa

Her website:

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