Art to Healing is holding our inaugural art fundraiser from 8th March – 8th April 2022 to further trauma-informed programming and support for survivors of sex trafficking and gender-based violence.

Art Therapy and Sex Trafficking

Women and children may be sold into slavery because their family environment is unsafe.  Families often are unable to afford food and safe drinking water; selling a daughter into slavery alleviates some of the pressures for providing for another family member.

As a result of this, many of the women and children Art to Healing works with suffer from complex trauma.  They have not developed or lost the capacity to express themselves and articulate their thoughts and feelings through verbal language.  Traditional talk therapy can be re-traumatising and unhelpful in these instances.  It is imperative for survivors to access to appropriate mental health support to bolster emotional and psychological well-being, to create resiliency. 

Expressive art therapy provides a bridge through the use of the arts.  Participants are able to safely process their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a way that is comfortable to them with the guidance and support of trained art therapists.  Mediums such as dance, painting, music, and writing, have proven an effective way to build internal resilience and help mend trust in external relationships.

Trauma physically changes the composition of the brain.  The resulting re-wiring, leads to an individual’s increased susceptibility and pre-disposition to illness because of the pre-occupation with the next traumatic attack.

In the animal kingdom, if an animal is unable to shake-off the trauma they have encountered, they can die.  In the human world, it manifests in long-term physical and mental side effects with the trauma not only being locked into the brains but in the tissue, as well.

Art to Healing understands the importance of understanding trauma’s effect on the body and provides programming for trafficking survivors to be able to move past these situations, so that it does not dictate the rest of their life. We have a success rate of 89% when working with survivors in reducing psychological distress. 

 According to the United Nations, there are roughly 370 million individuals that self-identify as indigenous.  These groups have distinct social and cultural attributes outside mainstream society, and resolve to maintain their distinct way of life.  In their unique position, they are often disproportionately marginalised and affected, leaving them vulnerable to attack.  As they can lack citizenship, access to services, and formalised education, they are particularly targeted by traffickers.

Somatic Informed Art Therapy



Manmiya “Obby” Bedford, a Bunuba Aboriginal survivor of childhood sexual assault from Kimberly, North-Western Australia.  She started painting as a form of self-expression when words couldn’t describe what she was feeling.

She writes this about her journey of recovery and her relationship with art:

“I didn’t realise that my body was feeling so on edge, worn down, and at times just ill because of the trauma that was stuck in my body. I personally didn’t want to talk all the time and in-depth about my feelings and in all honesty, I did not know how to.

Creating art gave me my own way of expressing how I was feeling without having to use any words. 

I paint with mostly acrylics on canvas. I love to use acrylics as they are fast-drying, and often when I begin a painting I do so because I have an itch to get something out of me that feels as if it is trying to bubble out. 

I use bright colours as they are a truer reflection of my personality, very bright and hard to miss.  A few of my colour palettes also reflect the natural colours found in the Kimberly, the earthy tones, (including purples) and all of the different shades that are found in the waters.

“I am a strong and very vocal advocate for mental health in the Indigenous community and have recently gained the confidence to be vocal on sexual assault as well. Our communities sadly have been fractured by colonisation and haven’t yet received the support and care we need to be as healthy as we once were.

Right now there seems to be shame attached to going to therapy like it’s a ‘white person’ thing, but I’m trying to be someone within the community to say that’s not so. We’re hurting and there’s no shame in asking for help, especially when someone has experienced serious trauma.

 An incredible realisation was that with creating art mindfully when it came to explaining it (with help) I learnt so much about myself, and my emotions. Where those feelings were inside my body and what colours and shapes they were. I would recommend and highly encourage anyone who has trouble vocalising their emotions to try somatic and art therapy together.”


Buy Art and Save Lives!

50% of profits go towards the artist, and 50% goes towards supporting the survivors of child sex slavery to re-imagine and empower a new life for themselves. Every purchase above $2 is tax-deductible.


Acrylic on Canvas

600mm x 900mm

Connecting with my younger self was once a foreign concept to me.

I didn’t know how to do it and the thought of it made me anxious because I didn’t know how to.

This is the second painting I created with my inner child at the forefront. I chose the colours I was feeling like on that day, sat down and cleared my mind. I pictured my younger self sitting next to me and each time I felt like adding a new colour I would ask her. I could picture my younger self so clearly cheering and yelling for the bright colours, being unapologetically vibrant. And I expressed that into my painting.

This western world wasn’t built for Indigenous women. That’s reinforced when we are told that we are ‘too loud’, ‘too proud’, or just ‘too much’. But my fire and enthusiasm are brilliant, and I will be taking up as much space as I deem fit.


Acrylic on Canvas
445mm x 600mm

This painting dates about 2-3 months into my therapy. Practices, ideas and feelings are beginning to take hold and sink in. We were also in our winter months and the colours reflect that. The brightness of fire isn’t present here, instead its cool icy air and wind.

This is about breathing fresh new air, rushing past me as if I were standing on a bluff of a cliff. Feeling free and fresh, these sensations were strong feelings felt throughout my whole body and went to encircle everything around me as well. Dark backdrop, bright, fresh blue wind, and all the white light highlighting it.


Acrylic on Canvas

600mm x 900mm

Before I created this painting, I realised how profound some of my recent realisations had been. They were huge turning points. Simple things like feeling safe, embracing love that I have around me to replace the constant discomfort I felt in my body.

So many amazing new things, yet the next step is to make them sink in. To make myself believe them. I used browns and pinks that I love, with the light in the middle. For me it symbolises protection, for myself. Sometimes protection provided from others and sometimes provided from and for myself.


Acrylic on Canvas
600mm x 445mm

Boundaries are something that I’ve only learnt about this year. My early childhood sexual assault stripped me of any agency I thought I had and no one in my family has ever really practiced setting healthy boundaries.

I painted this on a night I had a very important convocation with my sister. I have always needed to set boundaries with her as she is my first and most consistent bully. I told her that she needed to apologise to me about treating me badly during high school. I told her that being a bully is not who she is, it’s just who she chooses to be sometimes. She has the choice to be different and better, but I’m not going to disrespect myself anymore by accepting non-apologies from her.

The spaced out flicks is all the nervous energy I had to get out of my body after having that groundbreaking conversation, with the colour of fire as that’s what it felt like inside my body.


Acrylic on Canvas Panel
25.4 x 35.6cm

I created this after a very significant somatic session. I was finally comfortable enough to go back to my childhood sexual assault. This exercise was about changing the narrative in my mind.

Placing a protector with me, taking away the fear. It was important to first feel the fear, lean into it, and then imagine someone I love and trust with me, someone who I wish was there to protect me.

And in this scenario my sister and I pushed back. It felt like these massive flames were shooting from us, pushing away the hurt and pain, strongly and forcefully. I could feel it throughout my body. It was an amazing reset that changed me.


Acrylic on Canvas
400mm x 500mm

I have always been a very outgoing person. Meeting new people, and keen on sharing myself with others, like my culture, who I am, where I am from. I’ve done this for so long I didn’t even realise how draining it was on myself. To always put myself out there, and this colony isn’t kind to Indigenous people.

I’ve always wanted to be liked by others, especially people with some kind of racial prejudice. I wanted to be the one to change them and show them the light, I thought this was a part of my job as a young Aboriginal person. It is absolutely not at all. I am no obligation to share any part of my sacred self to anyone. I painted nesting when I first came to truly feel and understand this, nesting within myself was new to me and I was loving it.


Acrylic on Canvas Panel
610mm x 914mm

New Growth is a large expression of my new found sense of freedom, safety, and fearlessness within them. I used all the colours of a fire, with brown and pink. I paint with these when I’m feeling fiery. When I’m feeling sure and fully, and overflowing with these beautiful positive feelings.

Any Kimberly person can tell you that our landscape needs fire in order to replenish. As someone from the Kimberly, it was very easy to take this one into the landscape of my expansive mind. The beautiful, free heat, that is mine.


Acrylic on Canvas
300mm x 300mm

This was created during my first few weeks of somatic experiencing therapy. I don’t have any memories of feeling wholly safe and centered in my body. I have had to always distract myself with activities or nonsense. I imagined my partner’s hand placed on the back of my heart, helping me feel safe and secure, and I expanded that localised feeling, slowly, through the rest of my body. We spent a few deep breaths, letting that feeling of feeling grounded and centeredness sink into my body.

As it did I could see and feel this golden, pulsating aura that started in my heart and spread throughout my body. This painting is the closest depiction of what the feeling of being grounded is to me.


Acrylic on Canvas
345mm x 445mm

Being able to breathe new air and life into yourself. Taking those deep breaths with a new belief, it feels like so much more than just inhaling air. It feels like a huge gust of wind entering me. Washing over me in the best way. It is wind for its sharp light feeling, the way it whips and whirls around. Engulfing me. This freshness is not overpowering, but close to. In a fun childish way that doesn’t feel dangerous in the slightest. Breathing deeply and freshly with my new self is a privilege, and I wish it to everyone.


Acrylic on Canvas
450mm x 600mm

This was painted at the beginning of the year when it was easy for my family to enrage me. I broke up with my ex of four years in 2020 and my family was having a hard time letting go of our relationship. It was painful and tough because it felt like they were actively not taking my side and not supporting me. They kept bringing him up for no reason, the fact that they missed him. He was a shitty partner, but I’m far from a place where if a man doesn’t hit you that means that the relationship is good. Low bar.

My mother had been bringing him up again, and I got enraged, except this time I went outside and painted my rage so it wouldn’t consume me. It worked well, and whenever I’m angry, it always calms me to look at it.


Acrylic on Canvas
400mm x 500mm

This was created as a true expression and form of love, my partner being the muse. We are long distance, myself being in the bottom end of Australia and him in the UK. It was painted a month after he left for the UK. I’ve never done long distance like this, but I can do this so easily as I have never felt such love, even from afar. So cared for and looked after, the feelings flowing through me.

That is the inspiration for the movement in this piece, and the strong colours of fire, a burning within me. It was done after a larger painting called love, which is why its love’s child.


Acrylic on Canvas
305mm x 405mm

The Kimberley doesn’t have the European seasons, we have bulurru (wet season), girinybali (rains finished), nganali (cold weather/dry), and barrangga (build up/hot season).

During bulurru we get an extreme amount of rain, I’ve always loved it. The winds are blowing the smell of the rain before a cloud is in the sky, and when it does finally rain it’s like a lovely hot shower. You just want to stand and play in it. Bulurru is easily my favourite season because of this. The storms would be so powerful that maybe as an adult now I would feel the danger, but I have too many childhood memories of them being so exciting and the smell, so captivating.


Acrylic on Canvas
285mm x 385mm

This was painted in the cold season for Boon Wurrong country, (South East Victoria, Australia). I was experiencing so much healing and brightness, yet the weather was still so dark and gloomy. Which can be seen as this is the tight I used a black background the most. These months were so much colder and I found I wasn’t making any similar art than the summer. Yet these stars helped brighten my life.

Bringing my own brightness forward and into the world. I’ve been learning how much I really do carry within me, and when I share my brightness, the world benefits too.


Acrylic on Canvas
345mm x 445mm

Balga is the Bunuba word for Barramundi. The Balga is my gadinjin, (totem). Each Language group has their own way of getting their gadunjin. Bunuba way is, when the mother is pregnant, if there is any hunting done around the mother (by herself or others), and if an animal is killed their spirit goes into the unborn child. Any mark, (usually the killing mark) left on the animal, shows up on the baby.
Mine is the scar looking like birthmark above my lip, where the fish bit the hook.


Acrylic on Canvas
405mm x 305mm

My hometown isn’t a developed place, it is actually considered remote. Three hours inland
from Broome, Western Australia. We have beautiful country that has so many hidden rivers, creeks, and different water places. We walked to a lot of places when we were young, finding and making tracks if we needed to. This painting of roads is a depiction and expression of all different kinds of roads. The rivers we could swim down, the tracks we could walk, and the sealed roads that we were the most uncomfortable to walk as it was the hottest on our bare feet.


Acrylic on Canvas
400mm x 400mm

These colours represent the colours of our ant hills. Our natural ant hills are
the same colours of our earth, standing tall out of it. I choose these colours to express how distinctly different each one is.

I was fascinated by the huge structures these tiny creatures built and maintained. It always seems like another world within mine, and when driving past so many of them, it was mind blowing to child me so many different little countries all with their own queen were spread out, yet all so close together.


Acrylic on Canvas
600mm x 900mm

My birthplace is a place of amazing geology, our rock formations are of beautifully bright colours,
especially at sunrise and sunset. Pathways isn’t an accurate depiction of my Country. Creating this was about feeling the flow of my Country through me. The snaking flowing with the blue and the yellows were to represent how our best swimming and camping spots are all nicely hidden. It’s only easy to find if you know it’s there.


Acrylic on Canvas
305mm x 405mm

The cracks in this piece are to replicate the earth in the dry season when all the water has been gone for a while and the ground is dry and cracked. I didn’t quite realise at the time but I was instead thinking of my mum when painting this, that’s why I choose purple, her favourite colour. My mother is a tough woman, yet something I realised from my own healing journey is that mother needs one too.

Children don’t realise and recognise when people are acting out hurt feelings, but now as an adult that has been provided the proper tools, I can recognise it.


Acrylic on Canvas
400mm x 400mm

Painted on a whim, trying new things. Trying not to be stuck in my ways about this new aspect of my life. The brown represents nature, and its often surrounded by other beautiful colours. I imagined all these tiny shapes as their own little seeds. Packed with life ready to be nurtured. I was painting seeds to try and embody that mindset for myself. I may seem insignificant to myself (during that time), yet I am packed with so much ready to be nurtured.


Acrylic on Canvas
400mm x 500mm

My obsession with fire is easily explained as my People and hometown practice fire farming. I grew up seeing many fires, and not being fearful as I understood this was a part of our way, nature and culture. These colours energise me, like a gust of wind. They make me feel powerful, the painting of it is my expression of feeling my own power. The movement I use in this piece is both vibrate and
soothing. Something I was able to access and get out on a canvas and now I have that as a resource when I need it.

My obsession with fire is easily explained as my People and hometown still practice fire farming. I grew up seeing many fires, and not being fearful as I understood this was a part of our way, nature and culture. The colours energise me, like a gust of wind. They make me feel powerful, the painting of it is my expression of feeling my own power. The movement I use in this piece is both vibrate and
soothing. Something I was able to access and get out on a canvas and now I have that as a resource when I need it.



In the mid-1970s, Susan was co-owner of the Nobé Gallery in New York, featuring emerging artists.

During the 1980s, sheworked as the personal assistant for the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and had the great opportunity to work closely on the Surrounded Islands: Project for Miami and the Pont Neuf: Project for Paris. In the early 1990s, was the videographer and co-produced of the documentary film Threads of Life: Hemp and Gender in a Hmong Village. In 2010, the author of the article ‘Skydancers and other Mystiques: Works by Skowmon Hastanan’ published by Femspecs.

The painting Dreaming of Roses is currently featured on the cover of the current Femspecs edition. In 2010, was the guest lecturer at both the National Art Museum in Bangkok speaking about the 100 Years of Thai Women Artist and Chiang Mai University’s Language Institute where she gave talks on her research work related to food and spirit worship in Thailand.


Framed Acrylic on Canvas.
40 x 60 cm

This painting depicts the Nepalese ritual called Chhaupadi, it is a time when women and young girls are banished from the house during their menstruation. The female figure is below ground, where the women stay during their menstruation, and the position is the reclining Buddha; this was the last position before the Lord Buddha’s death. Lilies of the Valley are above ground to stand for innocence and purity, and the red briar roses are to ward off bad luck. The river and the floating roses symbolize the women who have lost their lives to this tradition.

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