Syrian Refugee Art Therapy Project – Chapter 5

Syrian Refugee Creative Therapy Project
Chapter 5: The Lens of Life

Photography, music and art join forces to liberate the worn torn psyches from the labyrinth of trauma in a powerhouse week of raw and pure expression. Two Syrian Refugee Centers, supported by NGO Save the Children, invited the Voices of the Children’s creatively explosive team to share the passion of their specialized professions with the youth of the Syrian atrocities. This dream of a project, the Colors of Love, just elevated to the next level… The Masterpieces of Love! Six hours a day of dancing musical notes, snapshots from the internal world of life to the cemetery of the past, and dripping paint of both elegant control to double fisted chaotic brushstroke… No right or wrong, just let the heart speak. A round-robbin rotation guided the incredibly receptive and eager students through the three different forms of creative outlets offered, tapping into the multiple forms of intelligence, offering each youth a rainbow of tools to explore… A buffet of tropical fruit to taste and the team was over joyed when the Syrian youth wasted no time nibbling, but took ravaging, juicy bites with a hunger for healthy and stimulating experiences.

Luc Reynaud, the lead singer of Luc and the Lovingtons and creator of the Freedom Song with the children of hurricane Katrina, brought his energetic smile, and love for music and children, to the island of peace within the Middle- East. He led the musical inspiration classes, along with Lea Anne Almetwaly as his assistant/ translator, inspiring vibrant song and dance. The soul of this workshop began with an invitation. The youth accepted this invitation whole heartedly and sang their freedom from the soul of their being, with the roller coaster of human emotions carried upon the musical notes. We witnessed the song of freedom growing stronger and stronger within the Syrian Refugees by the day. Active participation and joy radiated from liberated voices. Just wait until you here the recordings!

Tasneem Alsultan from Saudia Arabia, Glen Shackley and Michael Christopher Brown led the photography explorative class. The marble game in the cemetery, beautiful stray cats eating in the garbage cans, the streets of Amman, decaying walls, artistic compositions reflected through puddles, kids at play, aerial perspectives, vanishing points, portraits of each human emotion, children creating music and paintings… All of this is captured through the lens as the Syrian youth explored the power of perception and learned how to choose which lens they wish to experience their world through. Glimpses into both their river cold labyrinth and their secret garden of dreams were sprinkled throughout their choice of subject matter. It has been a deep honor to share the “fleeting moment” with the youth, eyes wide open.

Syria was painted, letter for letter, under crying clouds. The “S” was transformed into a snake that loomed over the country. A smiling soldier stood over a dead body and continued to fire his weapon into the lifeless flesh. Barbed wire surrounded the composition. On the far right two armed men were facing each other. They were not shooting. One soldier was handing the other a flower. “I did not see this happen, but I trust that it will happen one day,” the artist said with a twinkle in his eye. His older sister of 16 years old began to paint a tank, bullets and death, but stopped before finishing, turned the paper over and drew a world of flowers and peace. “I realized that I cannot live in the past and want to start over, creating dreams and a new life,” she explained. Symbolism was the red thread that wove through each visual art class as they explored both artistic technique and psychological post trauma psychological exercises through color and shape, led by Benjamin Swatez, along with the assistant/ translator Luma Al-Hamarneh. The imaginations are ignited as cat ears, third eyes, trees, flowers, hearts, and soccer balls are painted onto self portraits. On the last day of the work in Amman an entire retaining wall on the Zarqa Refugee Center was painted with freedom by the Syrian children between the ages of 6 – 12 and the staff. Our clothes and hearts were marinated with the Colors of Love!

The glowing eyes of our next generation, embodying such explosive creativity with every step, walking with courage, breathing the definition of resilience, choosing love in the face of torment, demonstrate the pure beauty of humanity and the Colors of Love and Voices of the Children are forever moved by the magnificent sharing that has transpired here where religions, cultures, languages, age gaps, forms of intelligence, and creative outlets are bridged. Humans manifesting artistic compositions together that depict the oneness of all!

Story written by Benjamin Swatez