As World Refugee Day rolls round again, and we bear witness to more draconian border policies, divisive media coverage and extreme political views than ever before, let's take time to reflect not upon our differences, but on our similarities. This can sometimes be expressed better in pictures rather than words...
So, here are some pieces of art made by children living in refugee shelters in Berlin. We work with these kids every week, making different types of art. Whether it's graffiti, or puppets, or dioramas, we have noticed that no matter what the task, the same themes and motifs occur in all of the children's work. These concepts are universal and are shared by all people- men, women and children- no matter who they are, or where they are from.
As we get older, and life becomes much more complicated and scary, it is easy to lose sight of the things which are truly important and bring value to life- family, friends, community, home. With children, especially, these ideas are forever in their thoughts and close to their hearts. This shines through every day in their Art.
A little girl from the Pankow shelter, named Narven, comes to class every week with her little sister. Narven paints a picture- her name, and her family's names, and a big heart. Each week, she paints the same thing, with small variations, and then takes the paintings away with her to give to her mother as a present.
Fuad loves fashion. He likes to incorporate designer logos into his work- very often, an Adidas or a Gucci sign will pop up. This is an interest that most of the children share- they all have aspirations of one day being able to afford their own car, or wear designer brands and have a luxury watch.
Football is another huge passion for many of the boys at the shelters. We have had many passionate discussion with them about their favourite footballer and football teams. 12-year-old Stanoje, who comes to our art class in Weissensee, adores Cristiano Ronaldo, and writes his name and player number (No.7) every single week. Another boy, Elis, loves Lionel Messi, and always writes his name on his artwork.
One of the most major recurring motifs, which appears again and again, is the idea of a Home, mostly represented by a square house, four windows and a pointed roof. A lot of the children draw very detailed houses, carefully labeling each room, making bedrooms for all of their siblings and parents, often with a very nice pool in the front garden!
This brings us to our final thought: We all want the same things, for ourselves, and for our families. We all wish to feel part of a community, to own things we can feel proud of, to have a home that we feel safe in, to be surrounded by our loved ones.
All people fleeing conflict or instability in their homeland deserve these things too, especially their children, who have endured the tragedy of seeing their homes destroyed, the terror of war and violence, the peril of flight, and the uncertainty of camp life. In fact, they don't just 'deserve' them... they are entitled to them.
So, on World Refugee Day, let's remember the millions of families still stranded in migrant camps around the world, with inadequate sanitary provision, barely enough food to survive, or basic education for their children. Let's think about all of the children currently held in detention facilities along the US-Mexican border, who have been ripped apart from their families through no fault of their own. Let's remember the thousands of lives lost at sea whilst attempting to cross the Mediterranean in desperate search of safety. Let's open our hearts to all the children, here in Berlin, who have journeyed from war-torn countries in search of a new home. Let's help to make their drawings a reality!
** This post was written in support of 'World Refugee Day' as part of the Blog Parade initiative organised by Media Residents and UNO-Flüchtlingshilfe. For more info and articles, check out the #WithRefugees twitter feed now! **