What are you looking for, Amal

Ángel Marroquín

A puppet is haunting Europe; her name is Amal. She is three meters tall and has walked about eight thousand kilometres across Turkey, Greece, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and France. Amal is currently touring England on foot.
Amal is an art action that seeks to raise awareness about refugee children (also called unaccompanied minors). She has been following the route that, in reality, many of these children follow alone in search of protection and security from war sites, from poor countries to rich countries.
Amal’s reception in these countries has been mixed: in some places, she has been welcomed with celebrations by adults and children, she has danced with them in their cities and towns. In other cities, stones have been thrown at her while the artists have been on the verge of being expelled because the inhabitants feel judged or do not have the time or humour for this kind of art.
In any case, it is worth asking: Why does Amal provoke these emotional outbursts? Could her presence help the dramatic situation of refugee children currently travelling through Europe?
The key objective of the artistic intervention is to awaken empathy in those who participate. How could one not feel emotion when seeing Amal dressed poorly, her eyes shining, looking around her curiously and emulating the behaviour of an 8-year-old girl? However, asking about the positive aspects of Amal does not shed light on what is sadly most familiar to us: the rejection of refugees. It seems to me that this is the point that we should try to illuminate.
What has led to the rejection of this artistic intervention is that it raises an uncomfortable question that challenges those who are faced with Amal’s presence and materiality: What would it be like to live as a refugee child? What would happen if my daughter was an orphan and refugee girl wandering around Europe? To what kind of experiences would she be exposed? How would she survive facing many closed doors? Unfortunately, it seems that in Europe, there are few people prepared to answer these questions while many are quick to ignore them.
Amal, with her wide eyes and hopeful walk, exposes the European emperor, who walks naked without knowing it.

Photo: The Guardian

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