Khaled Wings of Peace

Exhibition of paintings by Syrian refugee children opens in London

An exhibition of paintings by Syrian refugee children receiving art therapy through the Sir Bobby Charlton Centre Jordan opens today at the Old Truman Brewery in London.

The paintings are being shown inside a larger photography exhibition by Find A Better Way ambassador Giles Duley, entitled ‘I Can Only Tell You What My Eyes See.’ Giles was commissioned by the UNHCR to put a human face to one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time. His powerful exhibition gives the viewer an intimate look into the lives of those who are caught in the middle of the on-going refugee crisis.

The paintings by the refugees will be shown in a side-gallery inside of Giles’ exhibition, and are entitled Dark to Light. Painted by several different artists, all of whom have been forced to flee Syria because of the ongoing conflict in the country, the series chronicles tragic events from their past and expressions of hope for their lives to come.

The transition in subject matter is an important part of the art therapy process. Professor Nieveen Abuzaid, who oversees the art therapy programme at the Sir Bobby Charlton Centre, explains, ‘For the first month of sessions it is common for the children to refuse to even pick up a brush. They want to keep to themselves and are not comfortable in a group setting. Many will even deny that there are any issues that need therapy.

‘When they eventually decide to participate in the process they stick to mostly dark colours. They tend to paint the dramatic events in their life that have led to their current situation – the paintings are negative, angry, and refer to death commonly. As they participate more and more the colours they use tend to get brighter and their subjects switch to more hopeful themes: playtime, friendships, family.’

Although the process of painting is initially a therapeutic tool, many of the young artists have dreams to turn their new passion into something more.

One aspiring artist whose work is on display is seventeen-year-old Khalid (pictured), from Daraa in southern Syria. Born with cerebral palsy, his entire family was killed by a bomb blast, leaving him in an especially vulnerable situation.

By the time he began receiving treatment from Find A Better Way’s partner charity Asia Development Training (ADT), Khalid was suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. His physical and psychological problems negatively reinforced each other.

Painting became an important outlet for Khalid and he became highly prolific. With his renewed strength and the discovery of his passion for art, Khalid’s self-esteem increased rapidly and he began participating in more and more social activities. Today Khalid lives in the Zaatari refugee camp where he continues both his painting. Khalid dreams of becoming a famous artist, a doctor or a football player.

The Wings of Peace exhibition is made possible through Find A Better Way’s partners, the Polus Center of Boston, Massachusettes. As one of the leading non-profits helping people with disabilities world-wide, the Polus Center has been helping refugees in Jordan through the healing process for several years along with their partners ADT.

Both exhibitions are open to the public free of charge from 10-6 from today, Thursday 5 October, to Sunday 15 October. For more information click here.