Medical Humanities lecture: Theatre, Photography, Empathy & Healing

11 Aug 2017 - 12:30

Photos from Derrick's 'One in Nine' cancer seriesAs part of the 2017 Medical Humanities lecture series, the School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics, and the Institute for Creative Arts (ICA) proudly present photographer Tracey Derrick and mediator and academic Ruth Levin-Vorster on Wednesday 23 August.

Derrick and Levin-Vorster will present Theatre, Photography, Empathy & Healing – an exploration of narratives of healing and interdisciplinary approaches to wellbeing.

Derrick's presentation focuses on the road of photographic portraiture as a vehicle for charting her family's experience of cancer. She embarked to live her cancer through the lens of capturing not only the surgical and medical procedures, but also the intimate work of including her children in the journey to recovery, with dressing up, the wearing of wigs, the making of body casts, and other forms of creative storytelling captured in digital time. The seminar will include a presentation of Derrick's photographic journey of self-reflection and healing, with a discussion of her work as a leading photographer whose subject prior to illness lay beyond her immediate bodily experience. 

Levin-Vorster's career as a theatre director led her to a recognition that the deep process work of developing a character also had the capacity to enhance emotional and relational health, which in turn influences mental wellbeing and physical resilience. Having become increasingly interested in empathy in the context of divisive spaces, Levin-Vorster reflects on the intersections of theatre, empathy, and relational health, and on vulnerability and connection as the key tenants of empathy and the bedrock of theatre. She will talk to the embodied element of relationships, which is emerging in brain-body science as a significant factor in both empathy and lived experience as well as talking to the challenges and limitations within empathy. Drawing on examples from her own work, she will evoke ways in which the medical humanities might facilitate a conversation around such an interdisciplinary approach to well being.

Tracey Derrick is a portrait and documentary photographer whose projects are primarily concerned with social and community issues. She has photographed, amongst others, the Namibian Himba, sangomas in Khayelitsha, African refugees, Cape Town sex workers, and women prisoners in Malmesbury. She has continually taught and conducted photography workshops, and has participated extensively in exhibitions both locally and internationally.

Photos from Derrick's 'One in Nine' cancer seriesRuth Levin-Vorster is a facilitator of Interpersonal Communication and a mediator. She holds an MA in Theatre and Performance from UCT, and an undergraduate Diploma in Acting from the Drama Centre in London. After fifteen years as a theatre director in London and South Africa, she expanded her knowledge with interpersonal neurobiology, psychology and mindfulness and weaves these areas of interest into her creative processes for shifting the spaces between people from judgment to connection. See more at:

The presentation, followed by an open question and answer session, will take place from 6-7:30pm on Wednesday 23 August 2017 in the Anatomy Lecture Theatre, Old Medical School Building, UCT Hiddingh Campus, 31 – 37 Orange Street, Cape Town. 

Refreshments will be served from 5:30pm. RSVP at

For more information, contact the ICA office: +27 21 650 7156 or

About Medical Humanities

The Medical Humanities lecture series grows out of Medicine and the Arts – a post graduate course jointly offered every second year by Associate Professor of Anthropology (housed in the School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics) Susan Levine and Professor Steve Reid of the Primary Health Care Directorate. The course aims to facilitate exploration and engagement within a peer group that transcends the disciplinary borders that shape knowledge production in the health sciences, the social sciences, and the arts, and to instil in students an appreciation of the international literature pertaining to health and the medical humanities.

About the ICA

The Institute for Creative Arts is an interdisciplinary institute in UCT’s 

Humanities Faculty – formerly the Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts (GIPCA). The ICA facilitates research projects in the creative and performing arts that disrupt boundaries, while underscoring creative education and practice across discipline and faculty. Interdisciplinarity, live art and public spheres are key themes of the Institute, and projects are imbued with innovation, collaboration and a dialogue with urbanism and community. The ICA was launched on 5 April 2016 as a result of a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.