KOCHI: Australia-based Malayali Elsa Maria stumbled upon mandala art during the Covid-induced lockdown to calm herself. A self-professed overthinker, Elsa was ridden with anxiety when she heard about the virus. The medical biochemistry graduate was a stranger to mandala art hitherto. Upon learning that the art form was therapeutic, she decided to give it a go.
“I realised that I’d found a medium which untangles my brain, especially while watching news channels that incessantly deliver distressing news,” says Elsa. She describes the art as filling out a circular outline symmetrically with various simple, repetitive and geometrical patterns. It is a calming exercise that is equivalent to meditation. The practice of drawing mandalas is scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety in PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) patients. It is a very spiritual, ancient art form that is practised by Tibetan monks.
“People assume that artistic skills are required to draw mandalas. But it is an intuitive art form comprising lines and dots,” says Elsa, who calls herself a lockdown artist. She took an online course to learn the tricks of the trade and religiously followed fellow artists in the mandala community on the right kind of paraphernalia to use.
Elsa drew obsessively which eventually helped her de-stress. Posting her work on Instagram gained her hundreds of followers. “Many people could connect with my captions,” she says. Her work became an eye-opener to many who were stuck at home. A post on Project Semicolon became viral.
“I drew it after late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death as a reminder that suicide is not the last resort. The post also urged people to get help from medical practitioners, if their mental health is not great,” says the Thrissur native who settled with her family of three in Sydney two years ago.
“I have been told that my art has given people the courage to open up and ignite conversations,” says Elsa.
Now, Elsa conducts online workshops on the same. “I take monthly workshops. Mandala art is not for everyone but the satisfaction I receive when participants say that they can sleep well due to this newfound habit is immense.”Find her @elsasmandalas on Instagram
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Project Semicolon is an American nonprofit organisation that focuses on providing hope to people struggling with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. It was founded in 2013 by Amy Bleuel who died by suicide in 2017. Project Semicolon promotes mental wellness and runs anti-suicide campaigns. The semicolon symbol has become synonymous to suicide fighters.