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Art Projects Brighten Refugee Camps in Kurdistan

aptART Paint Outside the Lines Refugee Camp Iraqi Kurdistan

It’s no secret that art is often used to express personal creativity, or as a powerful storytelling medium. But art has also been proven to be a valuable therapeutic technique.

With the number of refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan growing to over 1.5 million, programs that help displaced women, men and children find and express their voices are needed.

The below art projects are a small sampling to demonstrate the ways in which art has given a platform for refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan to both express their creativity, and re-define their individual narratives, beyond being seen generally as victims who have been torn from their homes.

Paint Outside the Lines by aptART

aptART paint outside the lines

Refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan work with aptART artists. Photograph by Samantha Robison

Awareness & Prevention Through Art (aptART) is an organization of artists and activists who are working to encourage children to express themselves. aptART created a street art project, Paint Outside the Lines, in camps across Iraqi Kurdistan for both Syrian refugees and internally displaced Iraqis.

The project empowers young people by providing a creative outlet in their own communities while giving them a platform to share their voices in the international community through exhibitions of their original works in Brussels and Paris.

Castle Art by Rise Foundation

castle art rise foundation acre iraq

Rise Foundation works with children to paint murals on the walls of a former prison used by Saddam Hussein.

The Akre refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan – also known as ‘the castle’ – is believed to have once been used as a prison by Saddam Hussein. Today, it is home to some 1,470 Syrian refugees.

Once a bleak memory of Saddam’s crimes against the Kurds, today the walls of the camp serve as a blank canvas for twelve teenage girls with a passion for art.

“Castle Art was established in order to enhance the sense of community within the imposing and uninspiring structure that is now home to hundreds of families,” explains Rise director Tom Robinson. “It provides a unique creative outlet for these young, aspiring artists.”

Exile Voices by Reza

reza iraqi kurdistan refugee camp art photography project

World-renowned artist, Reza (center), teaches refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan how to use cameras.

In December 2013, world-renowned artist Reza traveled to a camp of Syrian refugees located in Iraqi Kurdistan and established a photography workshop for the children of the camp, aged 11 – 15.

The trip resulted in the birth of the Exile Voices project- now a five-year joint project with the UNHCR- through which Reza is working to provide workshops for young people in refugee camps throughout the world.

The culmination of portraits Reza has taken over the past three decades, as well as images taken by the children of Kawergosk Refugee Camp will be displayed in an exhibition on the banks of the River Seine in Paris through October 15, 2015.

[For more, visit United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees]

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