At the start of the year, the Culture and Bodies project ran a creative workshop in Bagamoyo, Tanzania facilitated by Dr Sally Mtenga.
In the workshop, nine local women used community arts to display their perceptions of and lived experiences of type 2 diabetes and diabetes risk.
Participants were asked to use the five senses (sight, taste, sound, touch and smell) to describe diabetes. Then, they worked in pairs to use their bodies to create images that represented the causes of the disease.
In the third part of the workshop, the pairs joined together to create collective performances of how people’s lifestyles led to them getting diabetes. Finally, Dr Mtenga asked them what they learned from the exercises.
The Culture and Bodies team – social and biomedical scientists, arts researchers and arts practitioners – read the workshop transcript and viewed photos and videos taken on the day. They then met to discuss what they had taken from the various data sources. The different points made by the team members gave a fascinating insight into the different approaches people bring to analysis.
Potential for unintended (negative) consequences
Many of the team had concentrated on the workshop participants’ perceptions of diabetes in the transcripts, and it was noted that there seemed to be a number of misconceptions around diabetes.
This raised the point—would the workshops result in the participants then being seen as ‘experts’ in diabetes by their communities? The workshops are not intended to be a health intervention, but there is a risk that this is how the project is seen by the local communities.
The team agreed that in future workshops additional steps would be needed to address these misconceptions and ensure the workshops did not produce any unintended negative consequences.
Verbal versus visual data
Many of the team had found the verbal data easier to interpret that the visual data. The creative researchers found themselves reading “between the lines” as they analysed the transcript and seeing if the photos communicated something that was not intended. Another point made was the extent to which participants respond to the facilitator in the way they think the facilitator wants or expects them to respond. How far did the exercises, creating images and performances, allow them to respond more in their own way?
Perceptions of disease
One of the biomedical researchers commented that the transcript made him think about how diabetes was perceived across different populations. What did knowledge of diabetes look like in Tanzania compared to the UK, and why?
To date, four workshops have taken place with women and men in Tanzania and Malawi. Further analysis of the transcripts will take place and be used to inform development of intervention activities to prevent diabetes and other non-communicable diseases. The activities will then be presented to local residents in community dissemination events.
If you are interested in finding out more about our work in this area, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Twitter, @Culture_Bodies