- Use of the arts in international aid is common in an ad hoc form, but it has not been systematically theorised or evaluated. The arts have the potential to be a culturally contextualised and sustainable intervention for adults and children in the aftermath of war or disaster. On the micro level, the arts are a method to enable the retrieval and reprocessing of traumatic memories that are often encoded in images rather than in words. On a macro level, they can help to reconstruct a group narrative of a disaster as well as mobilise people back into control of their lives. This paper researches a long-term project using arts in Sri Lanka following the civil war and tsunami. A central finding is the need to understand arts within their cultural context, and their usefulness in strengthening the voices and problem-solving capacities of the victims of the disaster. © 2015 The Author(s). Disasters © Overseas Development Institute, 2015.