Refugees express their sufferings throughout their talent

Refugees express their sufferings throughout their talentimage

17 Apr 2015

Ibtihaj 12 years old from western Syria city of Homs, she lives in Jordan one of the more than 3.9 million Syrians who have been forced to flee their homes and seek shelter overseas as a result of the conflict that erupted in March 2011. Since Ibtihaj was in kindergarten she has dreamed of becoming an artist, she aspired to one day open her own gallery and showcase her work to the world. When UNHCR visited her place she showed them her latest creations, wich presented on the walls of her bedroom with pride, the impact of her experiences was clear on her “This is a son and his mother praying to God, asking him to help Syria,” she said. “And this is an eye crying for its country.” British artist Hannah Rose Thomas visited Jordan last year, Ibtihaj is set to see her dream of reaching a global audience come true. Thomas heard some of the refugees’ stories and came up with the idea of recycling old UNHCR tents as a canvas for refugees to express themselves on. The results have been so powerful that the tents are now set to be exhibited in locations across the world. “The goal was to turn these symbols of loss and displacement into beautiful pieces of art, in order to raise awareness for the plight of refugees,” Hannah told UNHCR in London. “We played with the idea of ‘fragments’, ‘pieces’ and ‘shattered lives.’ Lives fall apart when forcefully expelled from their homes and need to be rebuilt again.” Ibtihaj and around 200 other refugees, young and old, male and female, were involved in painting three UNHCR tents, with each one taking around three days to paint. It encouraged refugees to express their feelings through their painting or to write poetry or whatever artistic medium came to them, whilst being given broad themes of hope, memories and the impact of war on families. The three tents were first exhibited last year in the Jordanian capital, Amman, to commemorate World Refugee Day (June 20) and have proven so popular they are now set for global exposure. One of the tents has already been exhibited in Belgium, and two of them were earlier this year used to help launch the “Brighter Lives for Refugees” campaign in the United Kingdom, a UNHCR partnership with the IKEA Foundation to bring sustainable energy to refugee camps in Jordan, Chad, Bangladesh and Ethiopia. The tents were recently exhibited at various locations around the historic north-eastern town of Durham. In June, one will be pitched on London’s Southbank as part of the Refugee Week celebrations while the other will be heading for Geneva to be used as part of the celebrations commemorating World Refugee Day on June 20 and the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. “There is a liberating element of art,” said Hannah. “Free and safe spaces are important for children who might feel trapped by their trauma. The art projects provided a rare chance for the refugees to express themselves and helped with collectively processing the ordeals they have experienced.”