Painting outside the lines: Refugees redefine boundaries of camp life through own art

Published November 23rd, 2014 - 17:46 GMT

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Nearly four years into Syria's conflict, some of the impacts are easy to quantify: more than 9 million displaced into neighboring countries; 2.8 million children out of school; more than 160,000 lives lost so far. And that's before you mention the more recent shockwaves caused by the Islamic State militant group.

It's harder perhaps, to consider the real-time effects of such figures on the displaced people themselves, or what they might look like drawn out on the concrete walls of camps that many refugees now call home.  Continue reading below »

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After almost four years of war in Syria, many cities are left besieged and over 9 million Syrian people have been displaced.
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Image 1 of 14:  1 / 14After almost four years of war in Syria, many cities are left besieged and over 9 million Syrian people have been displaced.

Enlarge
Syrians escaping the violence walk hundreds of miles over barren terrain seeking refuge. Routes are often dangerous and rations of food and water are scarce. Safe passage for a family from Kobane, Syria to Dohuk, Iraq can cost up to 2,000 USD.
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Image 2 of 14:  2 / 14Syrians escaping the violence walk hundreds of miles over barren terrain seeking refuge. Routes are often dangerous and rations of food and water are scarce. Safe passage for a family from Kobane, Syria to Dohuk, Iraq can cost up to 2,000 USD.

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Five years ago Syria hosted more refugees that any other nation in the world with the exception of Pakistan. It is now the largest refugee population under UNHCR care.
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Image 3 of 14:  3 / 14Five years ago Syria hosted more refugees that any other nation in the world with the exception of Pakistan. It is now the largest refugee population under UNHCR care.

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After finding refuge in neighboring nations, children struggle with the realities of displacement. Their communities have been destroyed and their lives uprooted.
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Image 4 of 14:  4 / 14After finding refuge in neighboring nations, children struggle with the realities of displacement. Their communities have been destroyed and their lives uprooted.

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To encourage children to express themselves and provide a public platform for their voices a regional street art project, Paint Outside the Lines was implemented across the Kurdistan region of Iraq in camps for both Syrian refugees and internally displaced Iraqis.
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Image 5 of 14:  5 / 14To encourage children to express themselves and provide a public platform for their voices a regional street art project, Paint Outside the Lines was implemented across the Kurdistan region of Iraq in camps for both Syrian refugees and internally displaced Iraqis.

Enlarge
Children watch artist Safeen Mohammed cut open a water bottle for them to use as paint cups. International and national artists from aptART implement the project alongside ACTED and with the support of the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) and UNICEF.
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Image 6 of 14:  6 / 14Children watch artist Safeen Mohammed cut open a water bottle for them to use as paint cups. International and national artists from aptART implement the project alongside ACTED and with the support of the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) and UNICEF.

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The project empowers young people with a creative outlet in their own communities while also providing a platform for their voices in the international community through exhibitions of their original works in Brussels and Paris.
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Image 7 of 14:  7 / 14The project empowers young people with a creative outlet in their own communities while also providing a platform for their voices in the international community through exhibitions of their original works in Brussels and Paris.

Enlarge
 In Arbat camp where Iraqis were displaced during recent violence in Mosul and Mount Sinjar, children from Muslim, Yazidi and Christian communities work on a mural about coexistence. The mural is painted across the building that is intended to be their school.
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Image 8 of 14:  8 / 14 In Arbat camp where Iraqis were displaced during recent violence in Mosul and Mount Sinjar, children from Muslim, Yazidi and Christian communities work on a mural about coexistence. The mural is painted across the building that is intended to be their school.

Enlarge
Children and their community painted all of the bricks in different colours and wrote their names and where they are from. The bricks create a vibrant mosaic of humanity, representing Yazidi, Muslim and Christian children coexisting inside a multicultural cityscape.
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Image 9 of 14:  9 / 14Children and their community painted all of the bricks in different colours and wrote their names and where they are from. The bricks create a vibrant mosaic of humanity, representing Yazidi, Muslim and Christian children coexisting inside a multicultural cityscape.

Enlarge
Coinciding with themes of peace and coexistence, youth create murals like this one about knowledge and the importance of education. The mural is written in both Kramanji Kurdish and Arabic reading “knowledge is light” and “education is the future.'
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Image 10 of 14:  10 / 14Coinciding with themes of peace and coexistence, youth create murals like this one about knowledge and the importance of education. The mural is written in both Kramanji Kurdish and Arabic reading “knowledge is light” and “education is the future."

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“I miss the trees and green things” explained Sidra after she painted flowers across her community caravan.
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Image 11 of 14:  11 / 14“I miss the trees and green things” explained Sidra after she painted flowers across her community caravan.

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The art brings new activities and adds color to the stark landscapes of refugee camps.
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Image 12 of 14:  12 / 14The art brings new activities and adds color to the stark landscapes of refugee camps.

Enlarge
Delivering positive and creative public messages from youth to their community, the murals highlight issues affecting people in the region. Alongside a kaleidoscopic tree rooted in rubble, the word Solidarity is written in both Arabic and Kurdish.
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Image 13 of 14:  13 / 14Delivering positive and creative public messages from youth to their community, the murals highlight issues affecting people in the region. Alongside a kaleidoscopic tree rooted in rubble, the word Solidarity is written in both Arabic and Kurdish.

Enlarge
The war in Syria intensifies with no sign of subsiding and more refugees continue to arrive to the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Despite the seemingly impossible situation, children remain hopeful as their mural reads, “hope gives wings to humanity.”
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Image 14 of 14:  14 / 14The war in Syria intensifies with no sign of subsiding and more refugees continue to arrive to the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Despite the seemingly impossible situation, children remain hopeful as their mural reads, “hope gives wings to humanity.”

Enlarge

1

After almost four years of war in Syria, many cities are left besieged and over 9 million Syrian people have been displaced.

Image 1 of 14After almost four years of war in Syria, many cities are left besieged and over 9 million Syrian people have been displaced.

2

Syrians escaping the violence walk hundreds of miles over barren terrain seeking refuge. Routes are often dangerous and rations of food and water are scarce. Safe passage for a family from Kobane, Syria to Dohuk, Iraq can cost up to 2,000 USD.

Image 2 of 14Syrians escaping the violence walk hundreds of miles over barren terrain seeking refuge. Routes are often dangerous and rations of food and water are scarce. Safe passage for a family from Kobane, Syria to Dohuk, Iraq can cost up to 2,000 USD.

3

Five years ago Syria hosted more refugees that any other nation in the world with the exception of Pakistan. It is now the largest refugee population under UNHCR care.

Image 3 of 14Five years ago Syria hosted more refugees that any other nation in the world with the exception of Pakistan. It is now the largest refugee population under UNHCR care.

4

After finding refuge in neighboring nations, children struggle with the realities of displacement. Their communities have been destroyed and their lives uprooted.

Image 4 of 14After finding refuge in neighboring nations, children struggle with the realities of displacement. Their communities have been destroyed and their lives uprooted.

5

To encourage children to express themselves and provide a public platform for their voices a regional street art project, Paint Outside the Lines was implemented across the Kurdistan region of Iraq in camps for both Syrian refugees and internally displaced Iraqis.

Image 5 of 14To encourage children to express themselves and provide a public platform for their voices a regional street art project, Paint Outside the Lines was implemented across the Kurdistan region of Iraq in camps for both Syrian refugees and internally displaced Iraqis.

6

Children watch artist Safeen Mohammed cut open a water bottle for them to use as paint cups. International and national artists from aptART implement the project alongside ACTED and with the support of the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) and UNICEF.

Image 6 of 14Children watch artist Safeen Mohammed cut open a water bottle for them to use as paint cups. International and national artists from aptART implement the project alongside ACTED and with the support of the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) and UNICEF.

7

The project empowers young people with a creative outlet in their own communities while also providing a platform for their voices in the international community through exhibitions of their original works in Brussels and Paris.

Image 7 of 14The project empowers young people with a creative outlet in their own communities while also providing a platform for their voices in the international community through exhibitions of their original works in Brussels and Paris.

8

 In Arbat camp where Iraqis were displaced during recent violence in Mosul and Mount Sinjar, children from Muslim, Yazidi and Christian communities work on a mural about coexistence. The mural is painted across the building that is intended to be their school.

Image 8 of 14 In Arbat camp where Iraqis were displaced during recent violence in Mosul and Mount Sinjar, children from Muslim, Yazidi and Christian communities work on a mural about coexistence. The mural is painted across the building that is intended to be their school.

9

Children and their community painted all of the bricks in different colours and wrote their names and where they are from. The bricks create a vibrant mosaic of humanity, representing Yazidi, Muslim and Christian children coexisting inside a multicultural cityscape.

Image 9 of 14Children and their community painted all of the bricks in different colours and wrote their names and where they are from. The bricks create a vibrant mosaic of humanity, representing Yazidi, Muslim and Christian children coexisting inside a multicultural cityscape.

10

Coinciding with themes of peace and coexistence, youth create murals like this one about knowledge and the importance of education. The mural is written in both Kramanji Kurdish and Arabic reading “knowledge is light” and “education is the future.'

Image 10 of 14Coinciding with themes of peace and coexistence, youth create murals like this one about knowledge and the importance of education. The mural is written in both Kramanji Kurdish and Arabic reading “knowledge is light” and “education is the future."

11

“I miss the trees and green things” explained Sidra after she painted flowers across her community caravan.

Image 11 of 14“I miss the trees and green things” explained Sidra after she painted flowers across her community caravan.

12

The art brings new activities and adds color to the stark landscapes of refugee camps.

Image 12 of 14The art brings new activities and adds color to the stark landscapes of refugee camps.

13

Delivering positive and creative public messages from youth to their community, the murals highlight issues affecting people in the region. Alongside a kaleidoscopic tree rooted in rubble, the word Solidarity is written in both Arabic and Kurdish.

Image 13 of 14Delivering positive and creative public messages from youth to their community, the murals highlight issues affecting people in the region. Alongside a kaleidoscopic tree rooted in rubble, the word Solidarity is written in both Arabic and Kurdish.

14

The war in Syria intensifies with no sign of subsiding and more refugees continue to arrive to the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Despite the seemingly impossible situation, children remain hopeful as their mural reads, “hope gives wings to humanity.”

Image 14 of 14The war in Syria intensifies with no sign of subsiding and more refugees continue to arrive to the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Despite the seemingly impossible situation, children remain hopeful as their mural reads, “hope gives wings to humanity.”

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Last week for Universal Children's Day, international aid groups ACTED and AptART rolled out the results of Paint Outside the Lines, an ongoing program allowing refugee children to express themselves through public art projects in Iraqi Kurdistan and, most recently, Jordan. 

Led by collaborations from local and international artists, the program aims to help children "transform their communities with large-scale public art," taking paintbrushes to empty spaces and opening new creative channels for young people left without other outlets

Have a quick look at the project's timeline in stunning photos by Samantha Robison and Jared Kohler. 

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