From Friday 11 – Saturday 12 December, The Project Space in Newport is playing host to a unique exhibition of 60 prints of drawings and paintings made by Syrian refugee children, aged 12-18, who are currently living in the Al-Abrar refugee camp in Lebanon. Entitled, From Syria With Love, the exhibition has been organised by Syrian student, Baraa Ehsan Kouja, and the founder of international refugee charity, iNEED, Natasha Cadman. Many of the works on display reflect the devastating trauma that the children have experienced, while others reflect a more hopeful and optimistic vision. Alongside each picture, as well as the title and the name of the artist, will be a photo of the tent they are currently living in, and a brief statement of that child’s dream.
The exhibition itself was inspired by the work of Um Noor, a refugee at Al-Abrar refugee camp and a mother of 4 daughters. Um was going to great lengths within the camp to try and inspire happiness in the children’s lives there, through encouraging and showcasing their artistic talents, and, in doing-so, developing their self-confidence. The success of Um’s work in the camp developed to a point where she attempted to establish an art exhibition of the children’s work in Lebanon. Baraa’s assistance on that exhibition has since led to the pair collaborating on a number of different projects within the camp.
On Baraa’s suggestion, From Syria With Love came to the UK at an exhibition held in Exeter. Natasha Cadman, founder of international refugee charity, iNeed, happened to encounter the Exeter exhibition through BBC television coverage and felt passionately that it was a project that should also come to Newport.
iNEED is a charity collective providing crisis support to refugees and migrants. They are committed to creating meaningful connections with people in the UK and refugees through organising events, skill sharing, providing emergency accommodation, lobbying MP’s and delivering outreach projects in school. The poignancy of the From Syria With Love exhibition is one which struck a resonant chord for Natasha, and it is through the combined efforts of both her and Baraa that the exhibition arrives in Newport.
According to Baraa:
There is now a lost generation of Syrian children – children who are losing their education, who have been forced to think about war and destruction rather than peace and love. The idea of exhibition is to reflect that these children cannot be simply labelled as ‘refugees’ – they are talented young individuals, with hopes and dreams, the same as children living anywhere else in the world. It will also reflect the ways in which their imaginations have been affected by the crisis through which they have lived. I think it will prove a good eye-opener for people living in the UK. It will hopefully help them to relate more to those who are actually living in a refugee camp, and enable them to experience and understand the individuality of these children.
The exhibition runs from Friday 11 to Saturday 12 December, 10am-7pm at The Project Space in Newport High Street. The works on display will also be available for purchase, with proceeds being directed to assisting the refugee crisis.