In a bid to raise awareness about the desperate conditions of young refugees and subsequently raise funds for them, a 3.5 metre-tall puppet of a Syrian refugee child is walking across Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and the UK.
The puppet, Little Amal, will travel 8,000km through eight countries, starting from April 2021, crossing many contrasting terrains.
Created by the Handspring Puppet Company, a leading South African puppet theatre company, the Little Amal puppet is made out lightweight materials such as cane and carbon fiber in order to enable people to operate it for extended periods of time in varied conditions.
It takes four puppeteers to bring Little Amal to life: one on each arm, one supporting her back and one inside walking on stilts. This fourth puppeteer also controls ‘the harp’, a complex tapestry of strings that animate Little Amal’s face, head and eyes.
Little Amal’s story first came to light through the award-winning play, The Jungle, in which Little Amal appeared as a character representing hundreds of unaccompanied minors in the Calais camp who were separated from their families.
For the uninitiated, Calais, located on the coast of France, overlooking the English Channel, had been in the news between 2015-16 during the European refugee crisis. Thousands of refugees, many of them children, from war-torn countries like Syria, Libya, Iraq and Somalia had camped in Calais, hoping to get refuge in Europe or United Kingdom.
The success of The Jungle gave rise to a global conversation about refugees and shared humanity, promoting the Globe Good Chance came up with The Walk.
The Walk, described as "a travelling festival of art and hope in support of refugees", will take place in 2021 from the Syria-Turkey border all the way to the UK. The message that Little Amal aims to send out far and loud is, “Don’t forget about us”.
“At this time of unprecedented global change, The Walk is an artistic response: a cultural odyssey transcending borders, politics, and language to tell a new story of shared humanity – and to ensure the world doesn’t forget the millions of displaced children, each with their own story,” wrote Good Chance Theatre on its site.
The artistic symbolism of The Walk would give out a very strong message that lies in questions like, Will Amal find her mother?, will she ever be able to get back to school, will she ever be able to start a new life?
While Amal might just be a puppet now but others like her can be saved and given a new lease of life. All that's needed on the part of the world is to not forget the refugees and lend a helping hand by donating funds. Many victims of the Syrian Civil war had fled from their erstwhile sub-human conditions only to now be deprived of basic necessities.
Founders of Handspring Puppet Company, Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler, delayed their retirement to be a part of the incredible journey of Little Amal across Europe.
Adrian Kohler's statement on walkwithamal.org, the site that will document Little Amal's journey, read, “This is a fantastic way for us to end our careers with a puppet walking through Europe where we’ve made much of our work over the last 40 years. The story of refugees is so important for the whole world. Many countries are on the move because of conflict, climate change, farmers that can’t work anymore through lack of rain. It’s the big story of our time. Because it’s an outdoor event, The Walk has the potential of bringing people together again. At a moment when theatres are struggling to re-open this is something everyone can be a part of.”