Few incidents have shocked the world more than the death of Alan Kurdi, the three-year old Syrian boy whose body laid slumped, face-down on a cold, Turkish beach in 2015, the final destination of a perilous trip across the Mediterranean, as he and his family fled a war-torn Syria. The image of Alan sent shockwaves across the world, triggering a renewed conversation on the global refugee crisis.
It’s a topic that has continued to divide world leaders and politicians; a topic that remains as relevant and critical today as it did on the fateful day; a topic that is being resurrected through one of the most ambitious and spectacular public displays of art in recent times. The brainchild of British art and theatre-based NGO, Good Chance, ‘The Walk’ intends to dramatise and highlight the tragic stories of Amal and other refugee children. How? Through the magic of puppetry.
The project will see a 3.5 metre-high puppet by the name of ‘Little Amal’ travel from Syria through Turkey, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and France in search of her mother. The trip will begin in April 2021 and pass through 70 towns and villages, with each one greeting 'Little Amal' with a range of art events and street festivals. The puppet’s final destination will be July's Manchester International Festival, where the puppet will act as the centrepiece of what is being called a 'large-scale participatory event.
The project has been realised in collaboration with The Jungle, a similarly-spirited project that has won acclaim for its dramatisation of refugee life in Calais, France. The project has won the support of a range of different UK-based organisations, including the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House and London-based Arab culture festival, Shubbak.
Three different versions of the puppet have been created with the help of the founders of South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company, Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones, who came out of retirement to work on ‘Little Amal’. It’s said that a crew of a dozen people will operate the puppets.
“The attention of the world is elsewhere right now which makes it more important than ever to reignite the conversation about the refugee crisis and to change the narrative around it,” the project’s artistic director, Amir Nizar Zuabi, told the Guardian. “Yes, refugees need food and blankets, but they also need dignity and a voice.”
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It’s this point that is of particular importance to the project, as it doesn’t simply aim to shine a light on the plight of refugee children, but they’re potential, too. “Little Amal’s story transcends borders and language to highlight the challenges that refugee children face,” Zuabi added. “But she is also a figure of great hope.”
You can find out more at www.walkwithamal.org.