Za'atari, the world's second largest refugee camp, through the eyes of its Syrian artists
Pablo Picasso declared, “The purpose of art is washing dust off our daily lives.” Pithy words from the painter - just imagine his views on the cleansing power of art against the fallout of war.
Artworks created by young men from Za’atari Syrian Refugee Camp in Jordan were recently shown in a quiet two-week exhibit in Amman sponsored by NGO International Relief & Development (IRD) and the ubiquitous UNRWA. Za'atari is the world's second largest refugee camp, and was designed to house only a fraction of the approximately 150,000 Syrian refugees that now call it home. Continue reading below »
Al Bawaba caught the art show's August 30th closing ceremony, held at hipster coffee shop Fen wa Shay in Jabal al Weibdeh, Amman’s most trend-iferous neighborhood, near Paris Circle. (Picasso would have smiled.)
Visitors could view (and purchase) original works drawn in ballpoint pen and pencil, paint and permanent markers, most rendered on plain A3 printer paper (these are refugees, remember?).
The creators are young men who live within a fenced desert compound in temporary housing with communal toilets, limited privacy, and no access to higher education or paid work. They bring contemporary nuance to the cliché “starving artist”. But limited art supplies be damned! Some of the works were as evocative as the greatest oil paintings in Amman’s museums.
Al Bawaba’s conversations with the five featured artists gave insights to each man’s motivation to create. Several had been trained in art before all hell broke loose in Syria; all exploit visual media to express their subsequent experiences. They titled their pieces with positive poetry: “The massacre of Homs, Deraa, al Joul - massacre, massacre, massacre. Let’s write a more beautiful future together.”
These men are the perfect counterpoint to the headline-grabbing Islamic State terrorists. Where are CNN and the BBC in covering this story - and many others like it?
All money generated by sales go directly to the artists, all members of the Za’atari “Fountain of Youth” - a camp club for young refugees organized by IRD. The artists agree that at least 25 per cent of their proceeds would go to the group’s shared budget to help finance future projects (e.g., performing arts, community services). Most have elected to donate their full earnings. Get your head around that!
So, it seems the ancient conquistador Ponce de León was right - there is a Fountain of Youth. It just never occurred to him to find it in a Syrian refugee camp.
- One year in Zaatari: Life inside the world's second largest refugee camp
- Contemporary Jordan artist throws into 'relief' largest mural in the Middle East
- The Fountain Of Youth: Not Just a Myth?
- Zaatari’s soldiers: A Syrian family’s thoughts on Alawites, Hezbollah and the future
- UN declares Syrians second largest refugee population in the world