Simba Muzira: modern day artist
Simba Muzira was an artist and in-patient at the Maudsley Hospital. He sadly died in in 2015 aged just 32 but has left a legacy of amazing art which is now being exhibited in the Long Gallery.
‘Simba had problems with his mental health since 2007 and probably before,’ says his mum Sara. ‘He always liked drawing, and graffiti provided him with an enthusiasm and pride that nothing else seemed to. The drawings in the exhibition are from a notebook he kept during his first stay on a psychiatric ward.’
Simba was treated for psychosis at the hospital as an inpatient on the Acute Men’s Ward. After leaving the ward, he enrolled in a 12-week occupational therapy course provided by the Community Link Centre, which was based within the hospital.
‘The Centre provided a lovely environment that focused on relationships, and it was nice to see Simba interested in normal activities,’ says Sara.
During his time at the Centre, Simba took part in activities such as cooking and painting. Realising his talent for art, the staff gave him paints and canvases.
‘Simba had painted and done graffiti work before, but not for years, so it was good of them to pick up on something he could already do and was good at,’ says Sara.
He so excelled at painting that the Community Link Centre held a private viewing of his work in 2014.
‘Simba sold several of his pictures and used the money to pay for more materials,’ says Sara. Sara praises both the Centre and its staff as having a really positive effect on Simba.
‘The practical activities gave him focus and the Centre was such a calm and creative place,’ he says. ‘It was good for him to be around people who encouraged him to respect himself and other people, and who looked beyond his psychosis.’
Growing a tiny idea
One day, Sara was cleaning out her garage when she came across an old doll’s house. She came up with the idea to convert it into a gallery. Sara, Simba, and over 50 other artists (many of whom had connections to Maudsley Hospital) created miniature pieces of art to exhibit within it.
As the gallery is so small, the pieces could be no bigger than six inches by six inches, leading Sara to invent the name ‘The Ludicrously Small Art Gallery’. She held two exhibitions in 2014, raising more than £1,300 for Maudsley Charity. ‘We were thrilled that several of the staff from the Centre attended the exhibition to show their support.’
At Simba’s funeral, Sara asked friends and family to donate to the Maudsley. ‘I am very glad that Simba was able to contribute to our fundraising efforts when he was alive,’ says Sara. ‘I hope his art helps to make more people aware of the work of South London and Maudsley and the many people with mental health issues that need its support.’
You can visit Simba’s exhibition ‘Doing it again’ at the Long Gallery in the Maudsley Hospital until 1 May 2017.