Exhibition offers visitors an opportunity to experience what it is like to have schizophrenia. 

The Wits Origins Centre Museum’s latest exhibition Shadow Voices seeks to raise awareness about schizophrenia. 

Shadow Voices was a week-long sound installation (July 31 to August 5) crafted by MMus (Master in Music Student) student Annemie Du Plessis, music psychotherapist Karin Meyer, and poet Dan Hoeweler. It explored the profound experiences of those living with the mental disorder.  

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that is characterized by continuous or relapsing episodes of psychosis. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and behaviour that impairs daily functioning and can be disabling. 

The exhibition uses sound that people can listen to through headphones to allow them to experience what it is like to have “voices in your head”. It mimics one of the realities of a person living with schizophrenia.  

Du Plessis told Wits Vuvuzela that “given the stigma often associated, we wanted to do a sound installation that would help create awareness about schizophrenia symptomatology” [the set of symptoms that are associated with a medical condition]. 

“Sound installations can be a powerful medium to allow for immersive experiences, it supports the narratives of music therapy as part of a treatment and support for people living with schizophrenia,” said Du Plessis.

According to a 2022 report by the WHO, schizophrenia affects approximately 24 million people, or one in 300 people (0.32%) worldwide. This rate is one in 222 people (0.45%) among adults.

According to Dr Mvuyiso Talatala of the South African Society of Psychiatrists (Sasop), in an article published by the Daily Maverick  in July 2023, schizophrenia affects only about 1% of the population of the South African population. He said, “schizophrenia is a disease of young people, with about 90% of people with the disease first showing signs before the age of 25.” 

The Origins Centre Museum’s curator Tammy Hodgskiss Reynard told Wits Vuvuzela that what makes Shadow Voices different is that “exhibitions are often visually focused and this one forces you to listen and use other senses.” 

Music psychotherapist Meyer believes that music therapy can be very effective in treating mental health concerns. Music therapy is the practice in which a therapist uses clinical and evidence-based music interventions to accomplish unique and individualised goals within a therapeutic relationship. 

She said, “Music can naturally lift our moods and, when used intentionally it becomes a tool for processing emotional difficulties.” She adds that “research has shown the benefits of music therapy for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, et cetera.” 

It is believed that music therapy can be used as an aid in the treatment process of different forms of mental illness.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Visitor and student, Aphelele Mbokotho listening to the sound installation which mimicks having voices in your head. Photo: Sbongile Molambo