There is no other way to describe the art exhibit on display on the National Mall this weekend as anything other than massive. “Peace & Hope: A Gift From the Children of Syria to the World” is a cultural diplomacy exhibit organized by Beats, Rhymes and Relief and the #RestoreHappy campaign. The exhibit features the paintings of over 1,000 children from the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan and sheds light on Syrian youth who have been displaced by over three years of conflict. The art installation is truly monumental, sitting at 1,700 feet long and weighing over 300 pounds.
What’s even more massive than the art exhibit itself is its impact and implications. Viewers are able to witness the innovation and inspiration that is coming out of Syrian refugee camps. The exhibit serves as a raw, unfiltered campaign that seeks to break down geographic and cultural barriers. The endless canvases on display, filled with paintings ranging from grinning Spongebob Squarepants to the harsh realities of UN refugee tents, shows stories of both loss and resilience from Syria’s refugee children.
But children should not have to have these stories of loss and resilience. Yet, Syrian’s children continue face many obstacles to peace and prosperity. Many have deemed the youth in Syria as being a “Lost Generation.” In Syria, over 5 million children are living in dire situations. Furthermore, children continue to be disproportionately affected as refugees because they had to leave Syria before obtaining proper identification cards or were born in exile. While much of the focus on Syria recently has been on ISIS, the plight of Syria’s children also demands crucial international attention and action.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the art exhibit Shelly Pitterman, UN Refugee Agency Regional Representative in the U.S. and the Caribbean, reflected upon his experiences of growing up as a child of survivors of the Holocaust and his parent’s emphasis towards education. With three million Syrian children out of school, that steadfast commitment to education must also be applied to Syria’s children.
Pitterman reminds us that the artwork displayed “highlights that Syrian children have left their home, but not their dreams.” It is up to the international community to respond to the efforts of those who brought the massive art exhibit all the way to Washington D.C. by following with massive efforts as well, so that Syria’s children can walk away from the refugee camps and walk towards their dreams and sustainable peace.
“Peace & Hope: A Gift From the Children of Syria to the World” will be on display on the National Mall from October 24-27, 8am-6pm daily.