This was my 2nd time in Amman. 2 years ago I painted a wall in Webdeh and fell in love with the colour and texture of the walls and the energy of the city that weaves through the 7 hills.
I was invited back for the Baladk Festival run by a group of local artists with a genuine love for their city and scene. Although Jordan seems to be far more conservative than Dubai on one hand, there's also certain kinds of freedoms I wish I found in my day to day life. Like painting on the street.
The theme of the festival was 'you and I'. Talking about otherness. Talking about how we perceive each other and create boundaries through difference. How we cast aside and divide based on menial and superficial details. A world divided by differences we claim don't matter.
I love crows because people don't like them very much. They're dark. Annoying. Menacing. Squaky. In mythology they're often an 'other' in terms of their loose morals and unconventional approach to doing things. So this is the story of two crows who found themselves on the same line one day. Looking at each other with judgement snobbery. Questioning the others motives, status and eligibility to be there. But they're the same bird with subtle differences. Some might prefer the guy on the left. Some the one on the right. But it's all ok and acceptable and not a reason for displacement by any means.
And so come the bigger meanings right? The celebration of subjectivity and the acknowledgement of what makes us the same and holds us together as a world unit, so to speak.
'Can't you see? That what is you is also me".
The team on this project were brilliant by the way. Kind. Welcoming. Generous. Everyone.Check out more on the baladk festival here: https://www.facebook.com/baladkProject/
And I had a very special helper on my wall who I hope I'll stay friends with. Colin, you're a star.
Here's some photos (that's Colin). There's more to the story that continues below:
After the wall I moved across town to do a bit of outreach work at the MSF hospital in Amman. This particular hospital is dedicated to people coming out of war zones with injuries requiring rehabilitation. Be it burn victims, amputees or people in need of mental health attention.
You can read more about the hospital here
We didn't have a big window of time but the plan was to paint a wall on one of the floors of the hospital where the kids hand out. These children have seen things we can't fathom. We've become so accustomed to images of war-related devastation we flip past it more times than not. But to see in person the impact on innocent people, children, of man-made destruction is gut wrenching.
We had a quick brainstorm about what we might paint on the walls. A lion a lion a lion. The boys wanted a lion. Because he is brave. And strong. The girls wanted a butterfly. We left little symbols of peace, of strength and hope on the wall as the energy and singing voices of patients and nurses filled the hallway day after day. The father of the little boy with the burnt mouth who brought me snacks every day and frantically scurried to help any time I moved something. The boys who wanted with a saddening desperation in their eyes just to paint. The boy who was kind and willing to learn and then teach the little girls how to hold a paint brush. The Iraqi actor with his brand new prosthetic whose voice echoed singing through the hallway. All of them. Each and every one with so much taken away from them and still so much to give.
The same hospital that houses burn and amputee victims from places like Syria, Yemen and Iraq also holds some immensely strong and beautiful human spirit of people who live with love, hope and perseverance, and the people who dedicate their lives to helping them. I am so moved. The walls we paint may not heal bodies but hopefully will warm the hearts of these kids who deserve a shot at a free, imaginative, joy-filled childhood.
I left Jordan with a heavy heart. And with these words (quoting myself!):
"Leaving Jordan tonight with a heavy heart. I watched a group of patients at the hospital say goodbye as they head back to Iraq and wondered if I'd go back if I were them. Or if I'd even really have a choice. We forget how fortunate we are. I'm still struggling to swallow the fact that all the damage I've seen on innocent people and children this past week is man-made. Carried out by fellow human beings. We react to death tolls. But at this particular hospital, dedicated to reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation, you see the long term impact of war. Of politics. Months to years of treatment and recovery. Waiting for multiple surgeries and prosthetics. Learning to walk again. Speak again. Much less the psychological impact of intense trauma. And the burns..... I'm altogether disgusted by humans and completely in awe of the strength, resilience and spirit of the people I met this week whose singing echoed through the hallways day after day as we painted a wall. Vibrations of hope. ❤ #msf