PARIS: On Tuesday 30th March next year, a 3.5-meter-high puppet called Little Amal will embark on an 8,000-kilometer journey from Gaziantep on the Turkish-Syrian border to Manchester in England, stopping at around 70 towns and cities on the way.
This endeavor, known as “The Walk,” originated from Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson’s play “The Jungle,” based on the refugee camp in Calais, France. Following successful runs in London’s West End then Broadway, director Stephen Daldry and producer David Lan decided to focus a project on Amal, a nine-year-old refugee who was one of the play’s lead characters. The puppet, Little Amal, was created by Handspring Puppet Company in South Africa, and Amir Nizar Zuabi was appointed as artistic director of “The Walk.”
Little Amal will ‘walk’ through Turkey, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and France accompanied by 15 puppeteers, interacting with local communities along the way. The journey will end in the UK on July 4, 2021, where Little Amal’s arrival will mark the opening of the Manchester International Festival.
“I'm not a refugee myself. As a Palestinian, I didn't move, my country moved,” Zuabi told Arab News from Stockholm, where he is currently producing his latest play. “I inherently connect with ‘The Walk’ and have been involved since its inception, so it was easy to figure out where I wanted to take it. The artistic ambition is unique, because we're creating huge, participatory events in the cities we’re passing through. We’re not naïve — part of the appeal is that this is an endurance race meets an arts event, on a scale that is almost unheard of, almost audacious. There's something absolutely beautiful about a community coming together to welcome, celebrate or empower a vulnerable refugee, who proves much less vulnerable once you get to meet her. How we receive refugee children — the opportunities we offer them — will mean they are not refugees anymore, they can become whatever they’re encouraged to be. Who knows where the next genius or great idea is coming from? It might be from Gaza, Shatila, or one of the camps in Turkey. The community events are joyful. As someone involved in the arts, I'm a true believer in beauty. Beauty is the way divinity shows itself. Maybe, in this moment of isolation, the ability to bring people together to dream with a project of this scale is just what we need.”
Little Amal is a feisty role model for kids — appealing, funny and resilient. And “The Walk” focuses not on the tragic plight of refugee children, but on their untapped potential.