Indonesian artist Hana Alfikih who goes by her artist name,  Hana Madness, transforms her mental health journey into a vibrant canvas of colourful monsters that create a unique dialogue around bipolar disorder. Having also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2013, Alfikih navigates her struggles through creativity, turning her canvas into a powerful tool for mental health advocacy that contributes to the global effort to foster a more supportive environment for mental well-being. Her 2020 exhibition, Suddenly Monster Part 1, showcases a collection of cheerful monsters that challenge the stigma surrounding mental health illnesses, reflecting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Reduced Inequalities and Good Health And Well-Being. 

Alfikih’s artistic journey began as a form of alternative therapy, which provided her solace during challenging episodes of bipolar disorder. Her expressive doodles evolved into playful, cartoon-inspired monsters that break away from the conventional portrayal of mental health issues, which tends to take on darker, gritty aesthetics. 

Artist Hana Alfikih aka Hana Madness. Image courtesy of Detik.

The essence of her creations lies in the vitality they exude; Alfikih monsters inject a burst of vibrant colours and joy, challenging preconceptions about mental health while encouraging open conversations rather than pushing people away. Through her pieces like Manic Depressive Narcissistic Family, which shows her signature monsters bearing different facial expressions, conveying a wide range of emotions in a sequence that might as well happen one after another, Alfikih not only communicates the highs and lows of her emotional turmoils but also aims to dismantle societal taboos around mental illnesses by engaging her viewers in a conversation. 

Manic Depressive Narcissistic Family by Hana Alfikih. Image courtesy of the Jakarta Post.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, Alfikih’s advocacy gained renewed significance. The enforced lockdowns and isolation exacerbated the challenges that individuals with mental illnesses and mental disabilities faced. The artist herself had firsthand experience, and she used this to highlight the importance of maintaining communication through pieces like The Emotion Wheel. 

The Emotion Wheel showcases Alfikih’s monsters in a circular formation, with each monster bearing a different emotion across its face. The piece’s title alludes to Plutchik’s emotion wheel, a circular graph that charts different emotions, clearly showing how certain ones overlap. This tool was designed to help psychological patients become emotionally literate, allowing them to identify their emotions so they can regulate them better, something that Alfikih felt was urgently required for mental well-being support, especially during times of crisis.

The Emotion Wheel by Hana Alfikih. Image courtesy of Hana Alfikih’s website.

Embracing the activistic nature of her work, the artist also attends various discussions, seminars, and media events to share her experiences, urging society to acknowledge and support those facing mental health challenges. Alfikih’s resilience and commitment to advocacy have been acknowledged internationally, with appearances in Japan, South Korea, Australia, England, and the U.S. through the International Visitor Leadership Program. The International Visitor Leadership program allowed her to speak about mental health policies in a post-pandemic era and how the United States and the world still have a lot of work to do regarding “realizing equitable and pro-friendly mental health” facilities and programs. By engaging with these diverse international audiences, Alfikih also contributes to reducing inequalities and promoting a more inclusive global perspective on mental health.

Hana Alfikih for Marie Regal Biscuit. Image courtesy of Hana Alfikih’s website.

Alfikih’s commitment to mental health extends beyond her art, as she collaborates with brands like Marie Regal, Smartfren, and Canon. In these collaborations, she creates artworks that depict her monsters and a cartoon version of herself interacting with the advertised products, bringing her artwork and mental health messages to an even wider audience. Her vibrant works serve as a beacon, guiding individuals toward self-acceptance. Notably, Alfikih’s art breaks geographical boundaries, reinforcing the universality of mental health challenges. Whether exhibited in Jakarta or England, her monsters speak a universal language, advocating for empathy, understanding, and support.

Hana Alfikih for Canon. Image courtesy of Hana Alfikih’s website.

As Alfikih continues her artistic journey, she remains a symbol of empowerment for individuals with mental disabilities. Her colourful monsters not only adorn canvases but also pave the way for discussions that matter. In a world striving for reduced inequalities and improved well-being, she stands as a testament to the transformative power of art, breaking chains, and fostering a community that embraces diversity in all its forms.

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