Externalising problems, drawing problems and documenting solutions

One of the key principles of narrative practice is that ‘the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem, and the solution is not only personal’. In this chapter, practitioners from Rwanda, Ethiopia and South Africa share the creative ways in which they are externalising problems and documenting and sharing local solutions.

Honouring Rwandan healing ways – the work of Chaste Uwihoreye

Sister Seraphine Kaitesirwa is a narrative practitioner in Kigali, Rwanda, where she works at a clinic for children and young people, some of whom experience concerns that show up as physical pains in their bodies. Sometimes, these pains have become named somatoform disorder. The pains can have serious effects for the lives of the children and young people, and their families, causing significant distress. Drawing on narrative principles, and with her appreciation for embodied experience, Sr Seraphine has developed a series of externalising questions and practices that invite the children and young people into a new sort of relationship with the pain, with remarkable effects.

Narrative Responses To Physical Pains: An Interview With Sister Seraphine Kaitesirwa

[Asked her re audio]

Honouring Rwandan healing ways – the work of Chaste Uwihoreye

Chaste Uwihoreye has developed forms of practice that honour Rwandan healing ways, language and proverbs. During the pandemic this work also took place through radio, television and social media in most sparkling ways. His sparkling work is documented here in Kinyarwandan, in English and in artworks.

Supporting genocide survivors and honouring Rwandan healing ways: Our own names, our own prescriptions by Chaste Uwihoreye

Broadcasting hope and local knowledge during the pandemic lockdown in Rwanda: An interview with Chaste Uwihoreye

Combining a range of narrative practices with communication technology, social media, radio and television to reach people both individually and collectively, Chaste has managed to overcome physical barriers to establish contexts of mutual and community support and connectedness.

I Will Keep Your Secret: Ijoro Ribara Uwariraye Kandi Ntamvura Idahita – From Psychological Suffering To Recovery In Rwanda — Chaste Urihoweye

This resource has been created to assist Rwandans to deal with hardships and pain that may not be visible to the eye but that is real, and often experienced physically, especially by those who survived the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda. It includes a series of narrative exercises and stories of face-to-face conversations and text exchanges in the hope that it will be helpful to the general public in Rwanda as well as to counsellors and therapists.

Nzakubikira Ibanga by Chaste Uwihoreye

My album, by Chaste Uwihoreye, Jean Marie Zivugukuri and Emmanuel Kigundu

My Album is a poignant collection of artworks by children and adolescents engaged in “Mobile Arts for Peace” clubs across multiple schools in Rwanda. The artworks vividly portray painful pasts, current challenges, and aspirations for the future. The vibrant tapestry of colours, symbols, and metaphors encapsulates the resilience and courage of these young people.

View ‘My album’ here

Narrative documentation

To close this chapter, we have included two presentations from Ethiopia and Rwanda about creative forms of documentation.

Narrative therapists use letters and certificates in creative ways. Instead of formal pathologising ‘case notes’ or ‘case files’, narrative therapists instead write letters and create certificates and documents that honour clients’ skills, knowledges and efforts. Sometimes letters are even written to problems. Collective documents are sometimes created and shared between groups and communities so that they can share their insider knowledge with others who are going through similar hardships.

In this presentation Hamelmal Yohannes from Ethiopia shares some of the ways in which she is documenting and sharing knowledge.  


John Kagaju in Rwanda used re-membering conversations, outsider witness practice and letter writing to assist a young person grieving the death of his treasured uncle. Creatively, he asked the young person’s friends to write letters to the deceased uncle.

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