Winnipegger 'beyond words' proud of friend Denis Mukwege's Nobel Peace Prize

Winnipeg music producer Darcy Ataman worked closely with Nobel Prize winner Denis Mukwege to implement a music program for victims of war, sexual violence and AIDS in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Darcy Ataman helped doctor bring healing to victimized women through music

Darcy Ataman, seen with Dr. Denis Mukwege in the Congo, has used his recording skills to help Congolese women overcome trauma through music. (Submitted by Darcy Ataman )
A Winnipeg music producer who has worked closely for many years with Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege couldn't be more proud of his friend's historic accomplishment.

Mukwege, a gynecologist treating victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is one of two recipients of this year's Nobel Peace Prize. 

"It's quite beyond words," said Winnipeg-based music producer Darcy Ataman.

Mukwege was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

Ataman, founder of the international therapy program and charity Make Music Matter, said Friday's announcement "was very surreal considering I was just with him in Congo about a month ago and … to go from that back home to Canada and receive word that he justly won the Nobel is — I honestly just don't have words."

Ataman brought Mukwege to Winnipeg in 2014 where he gave a lecture at the University of Manitoba and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Winnipeg for his work.

Mukwege is the founder and medical director of the Panzi hospital in eastern Congo, which offers free care for female sexual assault survivors and has become known as a refuge.

It is estimated more than a million women in the war-torn region have been raped or severely mutilated. The Panzi integrates psychological and physical treatment with social support to help women cope with the stigma many face after an assault.

A producer helps a woman record a song at a Healing In Harmony session in the Congo. (Submitted by Darcy Ataman )

In 2013, Ataman travelled to the eastern Congo and worked with Mukwege to implement his music program for victims of war, sexual violence and AIDS.

Since then, small recording studios have been set up in hospitals, schools and community centres to give victims a chance to open up through music.

Specially trained psychologists work with producers in the program — known in the Congo as Healing In Harmony — to help participants heal by writing and recording songs about their emotions and experiences.

"The artists come in, write and record songs about their experiences with a local music producer and a local psychologist that unlocks trauma that has never been talked about," Ataman said in a previous interview.

Women wait to take their turn expressing their emotions through song in the Healing In Harmony program. (Submitted by Darcy Ataman )

The songs are written and recorded in Africa, then sent via the internet to Metalworks Studios in Mississauga, Ont., for post-production. They get played on radio stations and sometimes released as albums, helping to empower the artists in their recovery.

Last month, Ataman was in the Congo with Mukwege to plan how to expand Healing and Harmony to sites throughout Africa and parts of  the Middle East.

With files from Meaghan Ketcheson

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