Little Amal: 3.5 metre puppet of migrant girl passes through Yorkshire
Little Amal, a 3.5-metre puppet of a Syrian child refugee, is making an 8,000-kilometre journey across Europe, via Yorkshire.
The puppet has been created by Handspring Puppet Company, the creators of the War Horse puppets, to represent the tens of thousands of displaced refugee children in need of assistance to rebuild their lives after leaving their war-torn countries.
Little Amal originated as a character in the play “The Jungle” created by Good Chance Theatre in 2015 in their temporary Dome theatre based in the refugee camp of the same name in Calais, France.
The Dome theatre became a cultural hub in the camp, offering a safe and creative space for residents, through programmes of workshops and weekly “Hope Shows” to showcase their work. The population of the camp hit over 8,000 migrants at its peak, before demolition in October 2016, when the Dome theatres moved to continue their work in Paris and London.
The character of Amal, which means “hope” in Arabic, is a 9-year-old displaced refugee searching for her mother and a better life. The project of her journey has been named “The Walk” by the theatre company undertaking it.
The puppet is operated by one person on stilts inside the torso moving the legs and head, and two people on either side operating the arms.
The creators of Amal highlighted that she does not have a voice since she is traveling to countries that don’t speak the same language as her. However, the operators share one mind in embodying the character of Amal, making her a great non-verbal communicator and empathiser.
Following Amal on her walk is a festival of art directed by Amir Nizar Zuabi.
Good Chance said: “The Walk is a celebration of migration and cultural diversity that will tell the story of the contributions made by refugees and immigrants. It represents the refugee story as one of potential, success, respect, hospitality and kindness.”
In each city Amal visits, local creatives, artists and communities have been invited to greet her.
By live streaming events, Good Chance has offered the opportunity for us to invite Amal and the festivities into our homes.
The Walk began at the Syrian-Turkish border in July, and since then, Amal has travelled through 65 cities, towns and villages across Turkey, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, France before reaching the UK in October.
In addition to raising awareness, Good Chance wants to rewrite the narrative following migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.
Nizar Zuabi said: “It is because the attention of the world is elsewhere right now that it is more important than ever to reignite the conversation about the refugee crisis and to change the narrative around it.
“Yes, refugees need food and blankets, but they also need dignity and a voice. The purpose of The Walk is to highlight the potential of the refugee, not just their dire circumstances.
“Little Amal is 3.5 metres tall because we want the world to grow big enough to greet her. We want her to inspire us to think big and to act bigger.”
October 22nd saw Amal pass through London, exploring Shakespeare’s Globe, Somerset House and the South Bank Centre before being met by 4,000 people as she arrived in Yorkshire on October 29th, reaching Sheffield on a canal barge.
All this has been made possible by an international team of 17 puppeteers, videographers and technicians who have been operating Amal and recording the festivities across the continent, highlighting the sense of global community.
Amal completes her journey on November 3rd reaching her final stop in Manchester.
Image credit: BBC