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Standing (from left): Four interns, Sduduzo
Mncwabe, Preleen Sookoo, Garlie Matabane, and
Waheeda Goga, with Karl Swain, Prof. Basil Pillay,
Suntosh Pillay, Dr. Devi Rajab (seated), and
Dr. Thirusha Naidu.

Renowned Durban personality, Dr. Devi Rajab, spared a Friday afternoon to chat to clinical psychologists at the Department of Behavioural Medicine in the School of Public Health and Nursing.

The interns and their supervisors attended the show Botoo, at the Playhouse Theatre a week earlier, written by the venerable Ronnie Govender and based on a write-up done by Rajab in her book Women: South Africans of Indian origin. The play was about Dr. Kesaveloo Goonam, a feisty but principled feminist, who was South Africa’s earliest female Indian doctor. Jailed 18 times for her anti-apartheid activities, the play portrayed her many paradoxes of principled activist, sari-clad fluent Tamil speaker, but a keen Scotch drinker and smoker. Rajab discussed the importance of the arts in critical thinking and psychological practice as too often, as a psychologist, perspectives are class based.

“Even Freud used the work of Shakespeare and Greek mythology to develop his ideas in psychoanalysis,” she reminded everyone. “Art gives you the vehicle with which to speak up,” she noted, using examples of political protest that relied on more artistic forms of rebellion that tried evading censorship laws.

Her column in The Mercury, Devi’s Diary, often tackles socio-political issues that need a sharp and witty analysis. Her collection of writings in No Subject is Taboo, is testament to that.

“You’ve got to be introspective,” she advised, describing the creative tension between her roles as both public writer and psychologist. “I realized I was showing myself in what I write, and people were finding out more about me than what I wrote about.” To be a good clinician and a good writer “know the world experientially” and “expose yourself to other stuff outside Western perspectives, people like Rabindranath Tagore.” She added, “as a writer you don’t only write for others but in the process, you learn about yourself” and that one should “write boldly and unafraid”.

Dr. Rajab concludes the discussion saying “you need to know your limitations, because it teaches you about yourself. Through every experience you should learn something”. This event was inspired by the need to enable spaces for creative reflexivity as an essential skill of emerging psychologists. The Department of Behavioural Medicine coordinates the yearlong clinical psychology internship for interns, who rotate through various public hospitals, including Addington, King Edward, and King Dinuzulu Hospital Complex, before completing an additional year of community service.