The Washington Post
A giant puppet is walking thousands of miles across Europe to raise awareness of young refugees.
A puppet named Little Amal is walking nearly 5,000 miles across Europe to bring attention to children who have fled Syria during the country’s long civil war.
Amal, who is supposed to be a 9-year-old girl, isn’t little. She’s 11 feet tall and needs four puppeteers to move her arms and legs and control her facial expressions. Her journey, called “The Walk,” began in Turkey in late July and features theatrical and other artistic events. Last week she arrived in Italy, and she will travel through several other countries before arriving in Manchester, England, in November.
Amir Nizar Zuabi, artistic director of Britain’s Good Chance theater company, worked with Handspring Puppet Company to develop the project. Zuabi said that “The Walk” isn’t only about the difficulty of the children’s situation.
“We want to challenge the perception about the refugees,” he said in an August video talk. “We want to talk about them not as an issue, not as a problem, but to talk about the potential they bring, about the cultural riches they come from and to honor their experience.”
The project creators asked community and religious leaders, arts groups and refugee organizations to host events throughout the journey. “The Walk’s” social media channels include many videos and images of enthusiastic reactions to Amal’s visits.
But not everyone has been welcoming. Protesters threw rocks and disrupted an event in Larissa, Greece. That episode became part of the social media story, an example of how people in Europe and the Middle East aren’t all supportive of resettling 6 million Syrians, whose country began a civil war in 2011 that has not officially ended.
Amal has looked concerned and cautious in the first weeks of the
journey — fitting expressions for a girl far from home and separated from her family. But Zuabi said in his talk that “The Walk” as a whole would be an
uplifting experience. “We want to turn this into a celebration of shared humanity and hope.”
You can follow Amal’s journey and
take part in a letter-writing activity through October 1 at walkwith amal.org.