Art

Street Art Activists Brighten Up Syrian Refugee Camp

British Street Art group brings splash of colour to refugee homes at the Azraq camp in Jordan

A British community group that brings street art to hospitals and public spaces in the UK has helped brighten up a refugee camp in the Jordanian desert.

The Artmongers group painted the makeshift shelters used by Syrian refugees, and organised creative workshops for children at the Azraq camp, home to around 32,000 displaced people.

The “Are You With Us?” project saw the group partner with Care Jordan to decorate a communal area called Hope Square in bright colours, and turn rubbish from the camp into an art installation.

Organisers said they wanted “to make life a little more joyful”

“We were like anybody else moved by the refugee crisis and we had already done a lot of public art projects,” said organizer Patricio Forrester. “We wanted to do what we had been doing (in the UK), but in the refugee camp.”

A documentary film shows displaced Syrians engaged in the painting work. “In Syria I used to be a painter,” said one refugee living in the camp. “It’s been three years since I last held a brush and a bucket, so I was very excited to help out.”

Forrester and Catherine Shovlin set up Artmongers back in 2003 with the aim of bringing street art “to the masses.” They have created murals at Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead and St Thomas’ Hospital in Lambeth, as well as decorating community centres and public spaces across south-east London.

The not-for-profit, London-based group has also worked on art project with adults with dementia, homeless people and adolescents with severe mental health challenges.

This is the second time Shovlin and Forrester visited the camp in Jordan, and they hope to raise funds to make a third visit. Shovlin said they wanted to “make life a little more joyful…to create a sense of community and shared ownership.”

Forrester added: “In front of you, there is always something wonderful happening.”

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