Tag Archives: healing

Can art do more?

Imke Rust Saltcircles

Photographing the first day’s work of the ‘Saltcircles’ during a misty sunset. (photograph by Steffen Holzkamp)

Art can be thought-provoking, inspiring and make the world more beautiful. But can it do more?

Part of my being is that I question everything. I love understanding the relations between things, the ‘why?’ of everything. I also love to find alternative solutions to problems or do things other people think cannot be done.

Often I ask myself, why am I doing art? What ‘real’ purpose does it serve? And can it do more than just look pretty, be a clever idea or make people think? Somehow all these things have not yet completely satisfied me. Yes, they all have merit and even a purely decorative painting has its purpose, but I believe there is more to life and more to art.

This has led my search, amongst others, to old, shamanic traditions. Somewhere during my art history studies I came across a reference to Ethiopian healing scrolls. If a person was sick, the priest would make scrolls according to specific rules (for instance the scroll needed to be as long as the person’s height, if I remember correctly), on which they painted symbols and wrote prayers. These scrolls were then taken home by the sick person and were viewed every day till the illness was cured. Interesting – art made to heal somebody?

Again and again I stumbled onto references where art is used for protection, fertility, health, initiation or to manifest a desired state. I became more aware that in olden days the shamans and priests made use of what we today call art (dance, painting, sculpture, music, etc.) to do their work of healing, blessing and manifesting. Since I read about the healing scrolls, I have been looking at the link between art and spiritual and mythical traditions and beliefs more closely. I do believe that under certain circumstances, art has more power and effect than what we normally imagine, and so I decided to try and be much more conscious about what kind of art I am making and why and how…

Working in the Moon valley, Namib Desert

Working in the Moon Valley, Namib Desert (Photograph by Steffen Holzkamp)

Be the change that you want to see in the world

In 2007 I made my first conscious work into this direction. I developed a personal Yin & Yang symbol to harmonize and balance the male and female energies in my life (Click here if you are curious). In 2010, I hoped for rain and made a work entitled ‘Rainmaker’ (read more about it here) – this was the start of becoming more interested in working directly in nature. Towards the end of last year the general concern about the environmental threats posed to the Namib desert by increased mining and industrial activities and proposed plans for off-shore mining of phosphate on the Namibian coast, started growing. Having grown up in Swakopmund and still considering it one of my homes, I, too, am concerned and decided to find ways in which I can do my part “to make the world a better place” and protecting the environment.

I realized that protesting or being against what I consider to be a threat is not the way to change things – or at least not my way. Instead I looked at ways of putting energy into the reality I would like to experience: a balanced, healthy and protected environment, in which all beings co-exist in a harmonious way, without destroying each other. This is based on the spiritual idea of ‘what you sow is what you reap’.

Planting black 'roses' in the Namib Desert

Planting black ‘roses’ in the Namib Desert (Photograph by Steffen Holzkamp)

The works had to fulfill at least one of two different purposes:

  1. to protect, bless and heal the land
  2. to make the threats visible and conscious, because if you have looked into the eyes of the danger, you understand it better and loose the fear and can act from a stronger base.

Loosely based on different aspects of old shamanic and spiritual traditions from all over the world, I tried to find my own formal approach, use of form, symbols, rituals and materials according to my intentions to produce my art or healing works.

Click here to be taken to see a small selection of the resulting artworks and brief descriptions.

Relationships, Art & Healing


As long as I can remember I have been intrigued by the underlying patterns and relationships between people, things and events.

Waffen kaufen wir in den USA © IRust

Waffen kaufen wir in den USA © IRust (Tippex on magazine page) (Translation of the title: We buy our weapons in the USA)

I have always been trying to get a better understanding of what life is all about, as the normal explanations, which our society has to offer, seldom seem convincing or desirable to me. Since childhood I have been convinced that there must be better ways for us to do things (all kinds of things). Surely there must be a better life out there for all of us?

If something does not feel right and makes me really happy, I just do not want to accept that this is how it is supposed to be, just because people say so. I do not care if their arguments are based on religion, social rules, scientific research or other dogmas. I have been called stubborn and insubordinate, but at least nobody can accuse me of being a sheep, and it felt good to go ahead and do something which I was told I could not do or find my own better or more efficient way to do things.

I believe that there is more to life and living than what we commonly accept to be true. The world is not flat, no matter how many scientists have said it is. It is not OK to kill somebody, no matter how many religions supposedly tell us that we have to fight wars in the name of some god. It is not acceptable to place the profits of a few over the health and well-being of a whole community. I refuse to accept that millions of people live in great poverty and hunger.


I guess that is why I have become an artist. Artist in the widest possible sense of our understanding of art.

Art as a creative tool – creating a new or better reality. A tool that can access the world of the soul. A tool that is rooted in imagination and vision. A tool that is based on colours, forms and materials just as much as it is on ideas, hope and dreams.
Art, which shows us something, which we have not seen before.
Art that opens us up to possibilities and new thoughts.
Art, which reminds us of who we are.

Preperation sketch for a painting

Preparation sketch for a painting


And I guess, that is the reason that I am interested in alternative healing and living methods. Once again, I talk of healing in a much wider sense, in the sense of wholeness. This wholeness is not limited to being whole (or healthy) in our physical body, but also in our spirits, our ways, our actions, basically in our whole being. Being whole also means to be part of the whole – of everything there is. Understanding that we are connected to every other being on this planet, including ‘things’ we do not consider to be alive, like water, soil, rocks or energies.

The bottom line…

Unfortunately, I do not know the answers or have a no-fail solution, or am able to live my life in the perfect harmony which I wish for, but what I can say, is that I will continue to ask the questions and keep on searching and keep on using my art as a vehicle to express my questions and thoughts, explore the possibilities and try to find a better way.

I have shared these thoughts with you, as I believe that they are fundamental for understanding my approach to my art and my life. I think it might be a good introduction to the next few articles, which I will be posting about my current work. And another selfish reason I do this for:  sometimes it is good for me to take stock and get back to the basics, in times when I am facing obstacles and frustrations and need to remind myself why I am doing what I am doing, so that I find the courage to continue and do not give up.