Share The Word Project in Uganda

I spent 5 weeks in Uganda, painting in a refugee settlement which is home to 100 000 refugees who mainly come from the DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

I painted in a predominantly Congolese neighbourhood, with a community who mainly come from the Eastern Congolese regions of North Kivu and South Kivu. They had fled violences that have been taken place for years with different milicia raiding villages and taking control of gold, diamond and coltan mines.

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Yafa 5

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.

Shadja3ah

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.

Soul

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.

Karamah

Helwa chose the word “Karamah” (=Dignity). She works for the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) which manages the 4 local schools in Balata Camp, and all the other schools in Palestinian refugee camps. After Donald Trump decided to decrease UNRWA funding last January, the organisation is trying to raise funds to allow Palestinian children to get free education. The campaign is called “Dignity is Priceless”, and Helwa wanted to bring people’s attention on the importance of educating the next generation of Palestinians.

Omy

“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.

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Maryam chose the word Al Audahuq (the right to return). She is referring to the UN resolution 194 voted in 1948 after the Arab-Israeli war. The Resolution defined principles for reaching a final settlement and returning Palestine refugees to their homes. 70 years after the resolution was voted, Palestinian refugees are still waiting to return. Here in Balata, most refugees come from Jaffa and other cities of the Mediterranean coast, which are now part of Israel.
I painted a fruity pattern specifically because Jaffa is world-famous for its citrus fruit.
The mural is painted on the Jaffa Cultural Center, which is where I’m staying in Balata Camp! It’s the first time I’ve actually painted on “my own house” during a Share The Word Project. .

Filastin

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”. .

Yarinta

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.