“Humanising Healthcare Spaces”: Report on the Development and Impact of a Music Collaboration between Community Music and Donald Gordon Medical Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Muziki, Volume 14, p.55–80 (2018)




This article reports on the evaluation of a new partnership between the University of the Witwatersrand’s Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre (WDGMC) and the Music Division at the Wits School of Arts (WSOA) in Johannesburg, South Africa. Established in 2015, the partnership aims to bring live music to the wards of WDGMC through a student placement in the hospital, which forms part of the Bachelor of Music students’ fourth year Community Music course. The article examines the effects of live music performances on patients, staff, and hospital spaces more broadly. Data was collected by means of a questionnaire, nurse, and student focus groups, as well as student academic essays. The results revealed a range of benefits and suggest that live music performances may be able to humanise hospital spaces, enabling different modes of musical engagements that confer agency and control to patients, their carers, and nurses. The article concludes by advocating for a mutually-beneficial relationship between the health sciences and the arts, through community music interventions such as this pilot Wits “music in hospital” project.

Medical Humanities in Africa

WISER is working to establish the field of medical humanities in South Africa with other partners at Wits and in the region. Medical Humanities took root in the interdisciplinary spaces between social history of medicine, medical sociology, medical anthropology, literary studies, art and film studies, cultural studies, politics, philosophy, legal studies, public health, psychiatry, medical economics and medical ethics. Although initially concerned with contrasting and comparing approaches from the humanities and medical science to themes of health, suffering, therapy, pain and illness, it has grown in ambition to consider the foundational question of what it is to be fully human, inviting debate around vital epistemological problems. The interface of medicine and humanities also demands a broadly interdisciplinary discussion about what constitutes evidence, and this is critical in the formulation of all contemporary political arguments, including health policies. 

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