Bringing joy and connection to the Syrian refugees in Azraq camp through two initiatives - Azraq Mosaics and Woman's Well
Women's Well - the concept
To work with the women to create a space in a disused shelter where they can relax and recharge. A kind of lounge. A place where they might just go for 20 mins when it is all getting too much. A place from which they would emerge stronger, calmer, more resilient. A place where they can share stories, support each other and share learning. A place they can make beautiful and restorative. The women can decide (with colour psychology input from Catherine) on how to decorate the space, and paint it themselves. (They regret not being able to participate in the outdoor painting and mosaic making) We can work with the sewing group to create cushions and drapes to make the space feel special and give the women a sense of ownership. We can work with some of the men with eg carpentry skills and repurpose waste materials or bring in some wood to create benches. The room may need to be locked in which case a nearby resident could be the keyholder. (Maybe the female community representative).
We are delighted to have a new contributor on our team - Isa Suarez will be bringing a new concept of composing music together with the refugees. We will work on this within the women's space. Isa is an award-winning composer who has scored a wide range of films for Television and Independent Film from emotional psycho-dramas, to adventure documentaries, socio-political, visual art and animation. isasuarez.com
Azraq Mosaics - the concept
CONTEXT: Azraq Refugee camp is home to over 60,000 Syrian refugees. Some have been there since it opened in 2014. Babies are born there. Children go to school. Young people fall in love. The camp is arranged as 4 villages. Each with school, community centre, mosque and clinic. In the middle of the camp is a vast open space a long windy walk to the only supermarket. A tough walk in the 40+ degrees summer heat or the close to freezing winter temperatures. With no landmarks and nothing to look at but sand the walk feels interminable with bags of shopping.
THE INTERVENTION: Artmongers, a small social enterprise co-creating art in public spaces to change behaviour, have been coming here once or twice a year since the camp opened. With the refugees they have created a sense of identity in some of the impersonal public spaces, bringing colour and pride of place. During their latest visit (November 2018) they created the first Azraq Mosaics, working with UNHCR funding and partnering with CARE Jordan. As well as being the name of the camp, azraq is Arabic for blue - the name of the nearest town which was called this because it has an oasis. This is also a good choice of colour for its high visibility against stone and its ability to withstand the sun and not fade.
PURPOSE: to enhance the experience of walking on the paths across the centre of the camp, eg to the supermarket
Large stone mosaic circles on open ground between the villages, now becoming known as Mosaic Park
Using natural stone and blue (painted) stones
Simple designs that bring joy, refreshment, hope are co-created by refugees under the guidance of one of the artists in the camp
Each mosaic circle has an orbit around it to increase its impact and protect it both visually and practically
The process has been refined during the first six installations and can now be completed in one day. This supports motivation as well as health and safety. The designs are developed by the refugees with guidance from Artmongers. Using low tech and accessible solutions, a shallow disc is dug into the ground. The sand is then used to create clay like traditional adobe constructions. Meanwhile stones are gathered from around the mosaic and a selection of them are painted shades of blue. The team of artists and builders then create the mosaic and its surrounding orbit. Our development process has taught us that turning the stones on their side creates a more robust design than laying the stones flat on top of the mud. This also allows the designs to be more fluid.
In the next visit (Azraq 7) we will be using a moveable tent to create a safe space where hard to reach groups can work in privacy.