OCA Magazine: Tell us, please, about yourself and your creative activity / work

Suriya Yessentayeva: I am 57 years old with 3 daughters and 2 granddaughters who I love very much. I am also an oncologist, a chemotherapist. I have been working in this field for more than 30 years: 25 years in the Kazakh Research Institute of Oncology and Radiology (Almaty), since 2015 I have been the head of the Department of Oncology at the Kazakh-Russian Medical University. 

Since 2013 I lead the non-governmental organisation “Scientific-Medical Society”, in which along with educational and scientific I began to develop a creative direction, Art-therapy for children with cancer, hereditary and other severe diseases. For us Art Therapy began quite traditionally: through the desire to help children who are seriously ill. The simplest thing to start with was drawing. Master-classes with the participation of famous Kazakh artists in the departments of children’s oncology and haematology, the organization of exhibitions of children’s work – it was great, beautiful, but not enough. I wanted more involvement of children in creativity, more long stay in it, that the result of therapy would be obvious. 

The theatre, participation in the production of a play – this was a real boon in therapy for kids who have gone through a difficult path of treatment for cancer and even for those who were still going through this path. Since 2017, we have staged 4 productions in which all the roles were performed by children with different cancer and haematological diseases, some of them have overcome these diseases, some of them are on supportive therapy. All of the children’s works were exhibited in the theatre lobby during the performances. 

During the pandemic, 5 videos were created with the participation of children. Since 2021 our studio in cooperation with Artishok Theatre has been working on the creation of a new play.

OCA: How did you choose your path and who is your role model in the creative space or life? 

SY: After graduating from high school with a mathematical bias, I planned to go to university to study applied mathematics. My dad convinced me that being a doctor was cooler: “A doctor in Africa and on a submarine is a doctor. If you marry a border guard, what will you do with your maths?” After graduating from medical school I didn’t even think about oncology, within a year I worked as a therapist in one of the districts of Almaty region, it took me about 3 hours to get to work and back. By chance I got to know that there was a vacancy at the institute of oncology (which can be reached within 15-20 minutes) and I agreed without thinking. I do not regret it. I think my teacher in oncology was professor Nino Apollonovna Chichua, MD. She was amazing, beautiful, demanding and kind. She taught me not only to be a chemotherapist, she taught me to write articles, to plan, organise and participate in scientific projects and many other things related to medical activity. Nino Apollonovna is a Georgian who grew up in Georgia and stayed in Almaty after graduating from medical school..

OCA: What is your main achievement in 2021-2022?

SY: For me the biggest achievement of 2021-2022 is that the pupils of our Art Therapy studio, these are kids who have managed not only to overcome cancer once, but most of them continue to face serious illnesses every day, took part in the international children’s and youth theatre festival-contest TTT “Theatre-Creativity-Talent”, which was held April 4-7, 2022 in Nur-Sultan, and won the second place in the “Performance” category. 

Another important stage for me in 2022 was the start of a new project “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on to someone else”, a kind of report on the activities of the Art Therapy Studio for five years.

OCA: Tell us, please, about the events of the Eurasian Creative Guild (London) and projects that you have already taken part in and how does ECG influence your creativity and success in your work?

SY: For our organisation, the Scientific Medical Society, joining the Eurasian Creative Guild (London) was a very important milestone. It opened up opportunities to present our achievements and works at the international level. Videos with the children of the Art Therapy Studio, which were created by us during the pandemic, when no theatre was working, were presented at the Eurasian Film Festival in 2021. The video “Lighthouse” was shortlisted as a finalist in the music video category at the 3rd ECG Film Festival. In addition, a story by Amangeldin Amani, a participant in the Let’s Paint a Fairy Tale writing contest that we have been holding since 2017, “Your Future Depends on You,” was included in the short story collection “The Thread.” And we also took part in the Tashkent Guild Festival.

OCA: What is your motivation and the main aim of your creativity?

SY: I met cancer patients every day for 32 years, I realised that every day is a gift that must be appreciated. For me it is important that the patient and his family believe that they are not left alone with the disease, that there is always an opportunity, if not to relieve the patient from pain, then to help him and his loved ones to cope with despair, to believe that LIFE IS CONTINUING. 

OCA: What would you wish for the members of the Guild and other creative people, just starting their career?

SY: Don’t stop, every new day is a new opportunity, a new step in your creativity. Creating beautiful things is a gift that is not given to everyone. Believe in yourself and trust in those who believe in you.