The transliteration of the Arabic word for art can be written as “fun.” For the students, art has been more than “fun”. For many, the art activities served as a temporary escape from their physical realities into a space where their imagination and creativity were not limited to their existing struggles.
In an effort to allow the students to explore a variety of art forms, we decided to focus on the following forms: visual, creative writing, and photography.
The visual arts included a variety of techniques including paintings, drawings, collage, and pastels. As we introduced the different techniques and supplies to the students, it became clear that there was a disparity between the students in those who had explored these forms of art before and those who had not. Therefore, the students were also given a short introduction to the work of famous artists, such Leonardo Da Vinci and Picasso. A focus on the Islamic art allowed the students to acknowledge and appreciate art that exists all around them in their houses, mosques, nature, and more. On the first day of our art activities, we just handed the supplies to the students and let them experiment with their ideas. A lot of the initial projects that the students created focused on self-expression and identity. Many of the Syrian students focused on their memories of home.
The students’ art work:
To help the students improve and develop these projects, we invited a Jordanian artist, Shadi Ghwanmeh, for a workshop in which he instructed the students on basic principles of drawing. The students learned how to think about concepts such as light and shadow and perspective by practicing the drawings of pottery jars and facial portraits. The workshop helped in highlighting the artistic talent that existed among the students. For example, our students Ragad and Ahmed sketched drawings of vases and portraits with such talent that even Shadi recognized and applauded in the workshop. Ragad and Ahmed then led and helped the other students improve their drawings, also exemplifying the growth of mentorship between the students. At the end of the workshop, Shadi surprised the students with a treat as he face painted the students with a diversity of colorful designs.
Writing also served as a therapeutic relief for the students. The students’ poetry and prose are reflections and articulations of their own understandings of their experiences and circumstances. For those students, such as the Syrian refugees, for whom recalling past experiences can be difficult and painful because of the severity and sensitivity of their memories, writing offered space for more solace and deeper reflections.
One of the first activities the students actually worked on was writing an “I am from” poem. The students wrote poems about their origins and identities, giving us a multi-faced sense of how they see themselves, their past and present.
Here are some of the students’ poems:
Creative Narratives and Reflections
In addition to poetry, longer form narratives gave the students further space to expand on their ideas of origins and identity. To help the students think about the fundamental styles of longer-form writing, we invited Haneen Al-Hawi to our program for a workshop. Hannen has a lot of experience in working with potential writers in developing their narratives, as she was working for ARDD’s Voice Project at the time. Haneen’s workshop helped the students learn how to convey and structure their thoughts and stories on the paper. To aid this process of capturing stories on paper, we even paired students amongst themselves to interview each other and write short profile article about each other. Below is Imani’s short reflection about Syria.