Arts & Leisure


An exhibit’s humane view on drug use




Posted on April 29, 2015


SOMETIMES, because of the stigma against illegal drugs, individuals who use or are addicted to these substances are not treated like human beings, said Inez Feria, executive director of NoBox Transitions Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit organization which aims “to remove the box of conventional thinking on drug use and policy.” This is why NoBox decided to put up an art exhibit called Still, Life -- an art exhibition exploring varied and personal experience of drug use and addiction.

Done in partnership with SparkleLAB’s Wanggo Gallaga and young artists, the exhibit involves paintings, photos, and poetry. There are paintings with psychedelic colors of a bubble that reflects the image of a young girl playing near a ship, a sleeping woman whose hair is made of flowers, two flies getting it on, a scoop of ice cream melting on top of a large-headed woman, and more.

Through the show, NoBox hopes to spark conversations on drug use.

The artworks are on view at several rooms and lounges at NoBox’s office at the 17th Floor of the 1707 Trade and Financial Tower, 7th Ave. cor. 32nd St., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. During the exhibit run, the office will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and visitors are welcome to look at the works while sitting on comfortable armchairs, and they can chat with NoBox’s employees if they have questions about drugs.

THE BEGINNINGS
OF AN ADVOCACY

Before setting up NoBox, Ms. Feria and her partners ran a residential center to rehabilitate drug users called the Philippine Center for Substance Abuse Management, founded on the philosophy of respecting the person and designing a program specific to the situation of each individual. The people behind the defunct rehab center are now focusing on NoBox so that they can work to change policies and perceptions on drug use.

There are many instances when individuals who use drugs are treated inhumanely.

Ms. Feria remembers going to a drug rehabilitation center and an employee of that center told her that if patients broke the rules, they would be handcuffed to grills. “What therapeutic value does that add?” said Ms. Feria in an interview with BusinessWorld on April 23. “What was striking for me then was that she (the center’s employee) felt it was the most natural thing to do.” Ms. Feria also recalled a news report where a security guard did not help a resident who was abducted from his home, and when asked why, the security guard said, “Kasi sabi adik (Because they said he was an addict).”

“If somebody uses drugs, it’s like a free for all,” said Ms. Feria.

She added that only 10% to 12% of people who use drugs develop problems, and yet we are bombarded with stories of those extreme cases, and told that drugs are intimately connected to criminality when that is not an automatic tendency of a user.

This is why NoBox is not keen on using the word “addict” or “adik” and instead refers to a “person who uses drugs,”
“It’s a label and it’s a very loaded label with a lot of stereotypes attached,” said Ms. Feria of the word “addict.”

“Drug use doesn’t define the person.”

“If you don’t say, ‘drugs are bad for you,’ it’s as if you are condoning drug use. But it doesn’t have to be that way,” said Ms. Feria. “We’re saying it’s more complex than that.”

The exhibit runs until May 9. For details, call 556-6269, or 0906-577-3986, or e-mail sayhello@noboxtransitions.org. The photos and details of the artworks can be found at the Facebook page of NoBox Transitions Foundation, Inc. -- Jasmine Agnes T. Cruz