Body Mapping


Body Mapping is a creative therapeutic tool that brings together bodily experience and visual artistic expression.  In its basic form it involves drawing (or having drawn) one’s body outline onto a large surface and using colours, pictures, symbols and words to represent experiences lived through the body. 

Body Mapping is not a new tool and has been used by therapists in areas of work as diverse as eating disorder and weak self-image, with victims of torture, or in human rights-based youth programs.  It essentially allows clients / participants to externalise somatic-emotional experience, to make meaning through the creative process of symbolisation, and to develop a map that (re)connects different aspects one’s being.

Body Mapping & HIV/Aids

In 1999, the clinical psychologist and narrative therapist Jonathan Morgan, then director of ‘Memory Box Project’ at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, integrated Body Mapping into his group work with adults living with HIV/Aids.  Initially as a preparation for death, Body Mapping was used as a way to collect and weave together memories as legacy to one’s children.

With the increasing availability of life-prolonging Anti-Retroviral (ARV) treatment, however, Body Mapping workshops soon developed a more life-enhancing and celebratory quality.  Not necessarily facing impending death anymore, participants were encouraged to look to their HIV positive future with hope and dreams. The resulting Body Maps were also shown in public in order to fight social stigma and to campaign for greater availability of ARV medication. ( , )

Today, Body Mapping in the context of HIV/Aids is practiced across Africa, such as in Kenya by Art2Be, a collaborative project including Kenyan counsellors and artistes, initiated by Belgian visual artist Xavier Verhoest based in Kenya and German movement psychotherapist Annette Schwalbe based in the UK.