Art in times of crisis

Eleven Syrian artists and cultural figures have begun exploring how art can support dialogue and resilience among refugees and communities in Lebanon as part of Create Syria, a joint project by International Alert, the British Council and Ettijahat – Independent Culture.

The project kicked-off last year with an open call to exiled Syrian artists to pitch their ideas. In January, we then met with a shortlist of artists in Beirut to train them in using the arts in community projects that challenge stereotypes and alleviate tensions and frustrations. The artists developed skills in project management, refined their project designs, explored how to deliver their ideas in a ‘conflict-sensitive’ way and learned how to monitor change throughout their projects.

Grants of up to US$12,000 have now been awarded to implement 11 projects across Lebanon, encompassing a range of art forms, including choral singing, performing arts, playwriting, documentary making, animation and fine art.

One of the projects, led by Abd AlKarim Qabrawi, will run workshops on the pre-production of cartoons and animations for up to 15 Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese young people. The workshop hopes to not only build the young people’s skills, but also encourage creativity and independent thinking.

Dima Abazah, meanwhile, will work with Syrian and Palestinian children living in refugee camps, who have lost their rights to education and play, showing them how to create puppets and teaching them about the movement of puppets and story development. The project will offer the children an opportunity to express themselves creatively and interact with each other in a different way.

And Eyad Houssami will train children aged 12–14 on creating performance art, including writing, dancing, music and acting. The training will offer children the opportunity to break the stereotypes and social constraints experienced by refugees. By working with different Lebanese and Syrian artists, the project will also tackle issues of racism and marginalisation.

The crisis in Syria and the resulting influx of refugees has heavily impacted social cohesion in Lebanon. We are therefore excited to explore the use of innovative new arts-based approaches to address this situation.

Watch this space for updates on the 11 projects as they develop. In the meantime, you can find out more about this work here. For enquiries, please contact Charlotte Onslow at [email protected].