Art for Peace: ‘Little Dreams’

Art has traditionally played a role in documenting remarkable phases in Rasha-Syriahuman history. It speaks a universal language, brings down barriers, and transmits a resounding message across the world.

SOS Children’s Villages Syria has been holding art workshops at the SOS Child-Friendly Space in Damascus, which receives an average of 200 children a day. The children are either internally displaced or from the hosting community in Rural Damascus. Art plays a role in the children’s psychological treatment, first in the identification and diagnosis of problems, and subsequently in the reduction of the impact of traumatic events experienced by the children during the conflict.the teamCollective photo of the child artists, volunteer artists, and the SOS team

The children’s drawings have been impressive, displaying talent and purity.As soon as they have the colouring pens, they are unstoppable. And of course they always have stories to tell about their art work. Driven by the children’s enthusiasm and our commitment to bringing their voices to the world, SOS Syria came up with the idea of holding an art exhibition displaying the children’s art. It became our “Little Dreams” exhibition.

Preparations

Preparations

The project idea was simple but required a lot of preparation, just like any other public event. Our team consisted of three SOS co-worker volunteers joined by six young volunteer Syrian artists. For more than a month, the team handled administrative tasks, approvals, security, the purchase of materials, etc., while working with the children to sharpen their skills and teach them more techniques, so they could make the most of their work.

The children spent at least four hours a day, three days a week, drawing and sculpting.It was a very joyful experience for them: they had time to play, laugh and live their childhood in a safe environment, despite everything. While the paintings were going through the final selection process, and were being framed and refined, invitation cards were designed, printed and distributed.

In Syria we are very attached to our history (I tend to think so at least!) and I also believe that culture is deeply rooted inside each and every Syrian. We are proud of our history. When you take a walk in the ‘old city’ district of Damascus, you can’t mistake the charm of the old Damascene houses, the smell of the old wood, and the sight of walls leaning on each other as though they are falling down – although they have been like that for years.

Two girls next to their paintings

Two girls next to their paintings

The ‘old city’ district of Damascus is accessible through seven gates. Each gate has its special story. The stories allude to Ottoman Empire times, the French mandate, modern history and the war we are witnessing today. One of the most famous landmarks of the ‘old city’ district of Damascus is the Citadel (also called the Saladin Citadel), which dates back to Crusader times. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citadel_of_Damascus.

We wanted to give a special flavour to our exhibition, so we chose to exhibit our children’s “Little Dreams” in one of the breathtaking halls of the Damascus Citadel. The place was great and we anticipated an amazing connection between the children’s paintings, the message they were sending and the castle.

We were running out of time. Security approval took longer than we had planned (since it was a public place, and in view of the current situation, security approvals were a must). Finally, all paintings, stands and sculptures had been delivered to the location. Standing there, we were all trying to agree on what to put where, and after agreeing we had to learn how to hang up the paintings. It was a bit stressful and some of us were getting frustrated. We had to stick to the working hours of the place because they needed to close the doors, and we had to go home before dark.

Finally, we managed to get everything done. Everything was there, beautifully organised, with the children’s names next to their art works. It felt so real: it was a real exhibition for real artists!

Mouhannad

Mouhannad next to his painting

Our idea was mainly to bring the voices of Syria children to the world, to give them the chance to speak in their own language and to show the world that this was not their war, and that without being asked they were being forced to bear it.They have lost friends, brothers and sisters, parents, and relatives. They have lost their rights: the right to life and the right to being a child.

Their dreams are simple. They don’t believe in fairy tales anymore. They believe in reality. They dream of going back home, of being with their friends in their old school.

Siba is five, and was displaced with her family from Rural Damascus. Her painting was of a big, beautiful house, green grass and a sunny day. Next to the house, she drew a little girl in a colourful dress and wrote next to her: “I dream of being next to my house.” Her dream is very modest, yet it is everything she is currently dreaming of.

The children participated in the creation of two big wall paintings, involving water colour on tissue. One painting was of a big family standing and holding hands, celebrating a family event. Being in a family is very important for them.

happy family

The collective painting: a happy family

Mouhannad, 7, has been displaced since the beginning of 2014. He hasn’t been able to continue school this year because his parents couldn’t bring any papers with them as they fled their home when the fighting became too intense. He never uses a pencil. He likes to draw with colours directly. His lines are defined and show a lot of confidence. He knows what he wants to put on paper and there are no limits to his imagination. In his painting you can see the faces of children. When I asked about them, he said: “These are my sisters. I made the one at the corner big because I love her the most, and I am the closest to her.”

 

More photos are on the official Facebook page of SOS Children’s Villages Syria: https://www.facebook.com/pages/SOS-Childrens-Villages-Syria/102513223282575?id=102513223282575&sk=photos_stream

visitors

Day one at the exhibition in the Damascus Citadel

Every child was standing next to their painting, proudly talking to visitors and explaining it. It was very difficult not to be emotional. Many of our visitors were astonished and couldn’t stop their tears when they listened to the children’s stories.

They are talented, sensitive, intelligent and innocent. There is still much more to do. We contribute to improving their living conditions, to reducing the effect of the crisis on them, to returning the rights they’ve lost, yet we can’t change the reality. In SOS Children’s Villages Syria, together with other child care organisations we promote the No Lost Generation in Syria message, and we are doing everything we can. But we all know: the only way to save Syria’s children is to stop the war, to stop the killing.

collageCollage of little dreams

Syrian children and their little dreams:

“My dream is to be next to my house.My dream is to be with my friends. My dream is to be happy. My dream is to live between the flowers. My dream is to travel the world. My dream is to go into space” –

“My dream is to be happy again. I want to play in the garden with my friends in my old neighborhood. I dream of seeing my teachers and my school friends. I dream of visiting grandma and grandpa in the big family house again. I miss our weekend picnics. I want to look up at the sky and see the birds are still flying and dream of being in space, as I used to do before. I dream of seeing Syria as it was before!”

 

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