Mural series inspires hope in fight against TB

Researchers, healthcare workers, local artists and community residents joined hands to create a series of murals at local clinics within the Cape Town area to encourage community support in the fight against Tuberculosis (TB).

Every year, at least 10 million people fall ill with Tuberculosis, as reported by the World Health Organization.  While TB is curable, people living with TB and TB survivors may experience stigma and discrimination on their journey to recovery.

To take on stigma and support patients and healthcare workers fighting TB, the “TB: the heART of the matter community engagement project,” was launched by the Societal Impact Task Team within Stellenbosch University’s Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics (MBHG) and rolled out at five healthcare facilities within the Western Cape, including Adriaanse, Elsies River and Wallacedene  Clinics, as well as Scottsdene and Kraaifontein Community Health Centres.

Key messages surrounding TB disease were identified through the engagement of TB researchers at the MBHG division with artists and TB survivors, which were used to create a series of artworks to address common misperceptions and communicate the social and political issues of the disease. Artists aided as translators, using art as a vehicle of communication, between TB researchers and TB survivors. In turn, this project used art to convey important health messages and words of encouragement in the form of curated paintings on pot plants and large murals. These artworks aimed to create empathy across social and economic barriers that will ultimately instil change in the perception of TB disease and promote health-seeking behaviour to combat disease prevalence.  

In conjunction with these artworks, potted gardens of waterwise indigenous plants were placed at each of the clinic sites which serve to liven up spaces at the participating local TB clinics and provide a restorative escape from stressful clinical settings. Research has shown that such an oasis can have several healthcare benefits for patients and healthcare workers by reducing stress and improving mood. Furthermore, these gardens serve as a symbol of life, prosperity and fresh air for TB patients and a reminder of the recovery and good health that awaits them following successful completion of their TB treatment journey. 

We thank all industry partners, TB warriors, volunteering artists, healthcare workers and community members who participated in this project. A special thanks to Blue Ribbon who supported this initiative by, among other things, providing donations of lunch packs as well as loaves of bread for distribution to visiting community members and healthcare workers present at each of the community days; As well as Cape Garden Maintenance who assisted with all gardening needs including garden preparation, compost donation, plantation of 3x large witstinkhout trees (donated by Cape Garden Centre) and the potted gardens at Kraaifontein Community Health Centre.

We hope that these murals and gardens serve as a lasting symbol of our gratitude and profound acknowledgement of the surrounding healthcare facilities and community in facilitating our clinical research endeavours. Remember, you are not alone. Let’s beat TB together.

This project was funded by the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences Social Impact Funding Committee and supported by the SAMRC Centre for Tuberculosis Research, Stellenbosch University Immunology Research Group and Clinical Mycobacteriology and Epidemiology (CLIME) Research Group at the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics.