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 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.
Azraq Mosaics the ask
Artmongers have made the first mosaics two prototypes inside the community centre to develop the process and six in Mosaic Park. Each mosaic costs £150 in materials, equipment and a modest wage for the refugees doing the work.
- The designs are developed by the refugees and a protocol has been drawn up and translated into Arabic to allow the process to continue until significant impact is achieved.
- 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.