Eloff Snyman: Art therapist

Creative healing

By Jesame Geldenhuys

“It’s all about providing a space for soul, psyche, imagination or a neglected part of yourself. It’s the neglected part of oneself that I provide a safe space for which to be explored,” says art therapist Eloff Snyman, who has been exploring the expressive realms of art therapy for the last 25 years. He is now paving the way in academia for the discipline to be more recognised in South Africa. 

After disillusionment with the structured teaching system, Snyman found himself organically morphing his formal Fine Art training and PGCSE degree that he completed at Rhodes University into a therapeutic technique called art therapy. After completing his masters in art therapy in London, where he lived and worked for most of his career, he returned to South Africa and now dwells in the peacefulness of Grahamstown where he privately practices art therapy at Carinus Art Centre and lectures a post-graduate art therapy psychology course at Rhodes University. The only course of its kind in South African academic curriculum.

Boxes of paint and materials sit on the tables in his practice room at Carinus and expressive, symbolic raw paintings line his walls, all setting the ambiance for the free and open space that Snyman facilitates the therapeutic process in.

“The platform for healing lies in the free space in which the process can be allowed. It’s all about the process in Art therapy,” he explains.

He looks over his written notes that date over the last decade; all of his recorded sentiments and recollections of enlightening and illuminating experiences in his role as an art therapist with the children, students and “burnt-out academics” that he has worked with.

“Can I explain it all in key words?” he asks. “Illumination, realisation, knowledge, return to self and discovery. That’s it. It’s all about illuminating the symbolism.”

Q & A

  • What do you love about Art therapy?

Space for imagining. Only that. That’s the main thing.  It is a space. It’s also locating or allowing the client’s time to come to contact with the neglected part of themselves. That’s why we often work blindfolded and with the non-dominant hand, to give some air to a part that is so often not seen as very important. So very much, space.

  • How do you see your role as an art therapist?

My role is to provide space for the soul, psyche, imagination and neglected parts. All of those places, we have different words for them, but it’s a neglected part of oneself that I provide a safe space for which to be explored. External environments are usually controlled and judged, but not here.  Eventually the mind tires of that and sometimes you need something a bit more meaningful.

  • What’s the importance of art therapy?

Rediscovery, returning, respecting- it’s all RE…to neglected parts that have = been deemed unimportant. But, it’s a return to something very valuable. It is there, giving people a space to dare think for themselves and have an opinion and then explore, experimentally, wherever it takes them.



2 thoughts on “Eloff Snyman: Art therapist

  1. i am a student at Rhodes university currently pursuing a BA in fine arts. i am looking at art therapy and the lack of art therapy in southern Africa for my student initiative project and would like to meet up with you or talk to via email to get some information on what you think about art therapy and the need for art therapy in southern Africa. if possible please could i get your email address.

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