Samar chose the word “Jaffa” (pronounced “yafa”). Jaffa, which today is part of Tel Aviv, is the city from which most families here in Balata come from, before being made refugees in 1948. She chose this word because she wants the young generations to know where their real homeland is.
Mira (15 years old) chose the word “Shajaah” (bravery in arabic). She told me that you have to be brave to live in Balata. There’s constant tension in the Camp, shootings waking you up at night, and incertainty when it come to the future.
Maryam (14 years old) chose the word “Soul” and wanted me to write it in English. She told me that the soul is the only part of a person that remains truly free. People can take her freedom away, but her soul will remain free.
“I chose the word “Omy” (=my mother in Arabic). My mother has cancer and I want to show her love. This mural is for her.” – Iyara, 11 years old, in Balata Refugee Camp, Palestine.
Mohamed wanted me to paint the word “Palestine”. Unlike many slums and refugee camps I have worked in, the walls of Balata have a lot of tags and graffiti on them. Many of these tags contain messages claiming freedom for Palestine, usualy written in the national colours. When I walked around Balata on the first day I knew straight away that someone was going to ask me to paint “Palestine”. .
Maimuna chose the word YARINTA ( = childhood in Hausa ). Maimuna’s childhood ended prematurely when she got married at the age of 12 and had to leave school. She became pregnant straight away and her first child was born when she was only 13 years old. She regrets not having had a proper childhood and a proper education. Her wish is for all children to be able to go to school until they complete their education and only start a family life afterwards. She hopes society will change in that way.
I just painted this mural inside the “Centre Culturel Jean-Rouch”, the French-Nigerien cultural center based in Niamey, Niger. I’ve been staying here for the last 4 weeks, and have been welcomed so generously by its staff.
Jean Rouch was a French filmmaker and anthropologist who worked a lot in Niger during the 20th century. I painted this for the opening of a new exhibition on the his work called “Jean Rouch, l’aventure continue”. Thank you to Olivia Marsaud for the picture!