Didi Art Therapy
Left: Zara Imayeva, Didi Art Therapy Studio in Baku
These days, there's so much
talk of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a term used to
describe severe psychological disabilities, especially those
resulting from war. Children are particularly vulnerable to such
Above left: The Children's theater, located behind Azerbaijan Drama Theater, is designed to offer a very intimate experience for both the performers and theater goers. Small in size, it accommodates only about 50-60 people. The stage is surrounded on three sides with tiered seats. Here, the Swiss consul enjoys the program featuring Heidi. The Swiss Consulate has helped to sponsor the efforts of Didi Art Therapy Studio.
Above right: Main characters in the play about Heidi, who is shown wearing a yellow dress.
The main aim of the Didi Art Therapy Group is to help children to be able to imagine and dream and wish again. Only then will they become mentally strong and healthy individuals and recognize their own human dignity.
Above left: Tarlan Gorchu, talented artist in Baku whose family has played an integral role in the establishment of Didi Art Therapy Studio.
Gypsy dancers in Heidi.
Above (left) The Mushroom in Heidi, (middle) Dancing Baloba Trees in Little Prince. Dance is
a major feature in Didi presentations, (right) A scene of Leprachans in Heidi.
We choose our repertoire with care and deliberation. It's not easy to select stories that will attract the interest of children whose ages range from 3 to 14 years. But we do follow certain criteria. We avoid stories that would exclude our children, such as the typical story of a prince falling in love with a princess. We also stay away from horror stories about mythical animals. And we absolutely forbid any story that would require the use of guns or any weapon on stage as a prop.
Currently, we've been working on two major pieces: a story about a Swiss girl called Heidi and "Le Petit Prince" (Little Prince) by the French writer St. Exupery. Both works are more than an hour in length and we try to involve as many children as possible in each production.
For example, we scripted five sets of characters for Little Prince. There were five princes, five pilots, five kings, five sheep, five foxes and five roses. We feature a Chechen Little Prince, as well as Azeri, Russian, British and French Little Princes, too. Some scenes are even in English and French. I love "Little Prince". This work has had a profound effect upon me at different stages of my life. I hope the children will come to love it, too. I first became acquainted with it as a teenager. I was 14 or 15 at the time and I found it very boring.The next time I read it, I found it very sad. Obviously, my perception of the story has changed over the years to parallel my own life experiences.
Above: The latest additions to the repertoire of Didi Art Therapy Studio for Children in Baku include "Little Prince" by French writer St. Exupery and "Heidi", a little Swiss girl. To give many children a chance to perform in Little Prince, five full sets of characters were created. Five Little Princes, five kings, five pilots, five sheep and five roses. Here, one of the Little Princes.
Above left: Little girls decked out as Rose and Sheep in Little Prince.
Above right: A visit to Japan in Heidi.
But for the children performing Little Prince, I just want them to have good associations. In the future, they'll return to it and understand that there can be many levels of meaning. I want them to think of Exupery's works as bright, not dark.
Little Prince is really a story of love. And as such, it will give strength in times of doubt and difficulties. I want them to always remember profound lines such as: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
Above left: The drama about Heidi included a variety of dances from
Above right: Gypsy dancers in Heidi.
I take it as the greatest compliment when people come to our performances and tell me afterwards that these children seem so normal and happy, and when they wonder why I say these children need psychological rehabilitation. Such words warm my heart because I'm the one who knows how much these children have come through and how much they have changed over time. Didi has made them stronger and happier. And this is something no one can ever take away from their hearts.
Above (left) Gypsy dancers in Heidi, (right) End of a successful presentation of Heidi. All the children who performed gather with Zara Imayeva, Director of Didi (wearing black in the center background).
It's impossible to predict how one will react to severe trauma. For me, to escape such an abyss, I needed to draw upon strength outside of myself. My salvation came through Azerbaijani friends who believed in me and helped me get involved with helping others, who like me, had experienced too much pain. I wanted these young children to grow up to be healthy personalities, vivacious and strong. These friends helped me so much. They are to be credited with my recovery and the birth of Didi group - people like Rahman Badalov, Tarlan Gorchu, Ali Abbasov, and Vagif Ibrahimoghlu. I could never abandon these children now even if I wanted to. Not everybody is blessed with such dear relationships. It's like being drenched in a shower of golden rain.