Syrian Children’s Drawings, Photography, and Stories
Art therapy changes lives of Syrian children in Turkey and you can help.
I would like to share with you a story I found in “Psychology Today” about art by children living in war torn countries and a very exciting project proposal.
Published on October 21, 2013 by Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPCC, LPAT in Arts and
In line with the focus on art therapy and interpersonal violence, I am humbled to share a story about the humanitarian efforts of professional photographers David Gross and Mieke Strand who are on a mission. Their project is a unique kind of storytelling, combining the realism of photojournalism with the expressionism of art. They are planning to travel to Syrian refugee camps in Turkey, collect drawings by Syrian refugee kids, and pair those with our photographic portraits and interviews. The goal of the project is to produce a free multi-media e-book in order to reach as many readers as possible [see Inside-Outside Kickstarter project].
David lived in Istanbul between 2001 and 2007, covering war and post-conflict Kosovo, Macedonia, Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey and worked alongside the Thai victim identification team after the Asian tsunami in 2005. Mieke is a documentary and portrait photographer, and she specializes in work for non-profit organizations and NGOs that help and work with children. Here is what they have to say about this latest effort:
David Gross: One day I wandered into the IDP (Internally Deplaced People) camp at Bang Muang, Thailand near Khao Lak where I was photographing the process of identifying the dead from the tsunami. There, Ms. Chatchada Kruakaew (who previously had created art projects for children in Bangkok) had set up a space for children to paint. The paintings were stunning, full of the bright colors and childish figures we all know from children everywhere, but they also included water filled with bodies, people on roofs of houses, fish swimming in trees, and everywhere, a huge wave.
I had been spending everyday surrounded by the dead, hearing stories of the tsunami. I had photographed the twisted concrete of stripped foundations, but only after seeing those children’s drawings did I feel the enormity of the events. Their drawings grabbed me directly, emotionally, wholly—I was able to feel the fear and awe of the waves. My photography informs you of what happened—the children’s drawings grab you by the throat.
Much of my best work has been about genocide, war crimes, and death. Frankly, the number of people who want to see such photographs is quite small! It occurred to me that people still line up to
Palestinian refugee child in Bagdad; photo by David Gross
see the war drawings of Goya, images that are often quite graphic. I have always wanted to see if I could combine “art reporting” with photojournalism —pairing visceral but abstracted images of people’s inner worlds with the realistic depictions of photography.
As media-based photography has disappeared as a self-supporting profession for all but a tiny few, I have sought alternative ways to discover and photograph the world. The new media are new opportunities for people like me who would rather, given the choice, create and explore the world rather than settle down and earn money. It’s been a long haul, but I think Inside-Outside will be the first in a series of new media efforts, directly supported by people who care and this current project is a first step in that direction.
Mieke Strand: My interest in this project came alive when I first saw drawings done by refugee children during the Spanish Civil War. As I began to delve further, I discovered the long and powerful history that art and art therapy have in helping children process the trauma of war. Art therapy drawings are fascinating in that they provide a visual history of war, from the Spanish Civil War, through WW II, and to the conflicts in Kosovo, Darfur, Iraq and now Syria, among others.
The drawings are also heart-wrenching because they show us the terrors of war through the eyes of a child. I felt an immediate connection to these kids, despite the distances of time, place, culture, and language. Their drawings look like drawings I made as a kid, drawings my nephews make today, except that the subject matter was not something that children should have to experience.
The idea for Inside-Outside began to take a definite shape as David and I read stories of the horrible impact that the War in Syria is having on children. I want people to see and feel their stories, because I believe this will lead people to act on their behalf. I also want people to recognize the work that art therapists do for children affected by war. And lastly, I believe that art and photography can connect people emotionally in profound ways.
Plainly put, the “big-picture” goal of this project is to raise awareness by connecting people to the plight of the refugees so they will support sending more aid to help these people in need. You can learn more about Inside-Outside at this link http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/davidgross/inside-outside.
Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPCC, LPAT, ATR-BCr
David’s web site: http://www.davidgrossphoto.com
Art Therapy Without Borders on Facebook—over 20,000 followers and growing! https://www.facebook.com/arttherapywithoutborders
For information on Trauma-Informed Art Therapy®— visit Trauma-Informed Practices and Expressive Arts Therapy Institute at http://www.trauma-informedpractice.com