I arrived at the airport in Amman, Jordan at around 5:30 this morning and headed to meet up with everyone from the organizations I’ll be working with, APTArt and ACTED. I was surprised to learn that we would be heading to the camp right away! After a quick cup of coffee we were on our way through the desert-y scenery to an area near the border of Syria where a massive refugee camp has sprung up and, in only 9 months, has swollen to 120,000 people! I was impressed to see that the humanitarian agencies, including ACTED who contracted us for this project, have kept this vast tent city very clean and stocked with rations of food, water, housing, and other basic living necessities. Despite this, there is a great deal of chaos here; many times a day, frustrated refugees protest and riot, often throwing stones at aid workers, and we were instructed to evacuate immediately when this happens. Our team includes artists from Syria, Jordan, South Africa and the US who are being organized by the global arts organization AptART.
Our goal here is to use public art to channel the children and teenagers’ energy to beautifying their new community, communicate messages of hope to their fellow residents, and reach the outside world to raise awareness of their plight, as the international media will be covering the project. We intend to set up an initiative that will continue long after we, the international artists, have left the camp. This week we focus on meeting with the community to discuss the themes, imagery and locations of the murals. –Joel