Walk with Amal through Brussels

Walk with Amal (photo: Jochem Oomen)

Little Amal is 3,5-meter-tall puppet, walking from the Syrian border to the United Kingdom. She represents a nine-year-old displaced girl, searching for her mother. Since July, she walked all the way from Gaziantep (Turkey), via Greece, Italy and France, to Belgium. In Brussels, several artistic interventions were held to sensitize people to the hard circumstances in which displaced children are living.

Amal’s walk started in Brussels at the Place de la Monnaie on Wednesday 6 October 2021. She met other children and sympathizers here, who walked with her through the streets of the city center. Despite the sometimes-heavy rain, the public stayed enthusiast. The giant puppet had often interaction with other persons in the street, for example with a homeless person who stayed under the arch of the Église Saint-Nicolas.

Via several avenues, she left the city center for Cureghem, a quarter of arrival. She met dozens of other people who are living or working here. Persons passing by, reacted really enthusiast. This first day was closed with a piece of theater and dance at the covered market Abattoir.

Solidarity

 

The weather was better on Thursday. The giant puppet met hundreds of school children at the Parc Maximilien, were local community saw often solidarity with displaced persons. Later, the procession with Amal walked again in the city center. At the church House of Compassion (Église Saint-Jean-Baptise-au-Béguinage) she met again solidarity: this place is known for its acceptance and shelter for undocumented migrants. Amal did a walk through the church.

Amal’s walk ended at the Place de la Monnaie, where she started a day earlier. Hundreds of school children wrote letters to Amal, which were rad for the audience at the square. Amal collected them in mailbags. All these letters could be brought to the European institutions in Brussels, to demand attention for the tough life of roaming unaccompanied minors. Later, Amal would walk to Antwerp and England.

As a photographer, I decided to do the whole walk with this procession on Wednesday and Thursday. In the heavy rain and under the burning sun, I tried to make a reportage, but I was not the only photographer. Each media professionals did his or her best to create the best image.  I opted for a personal approach:  trying to capture the general story and the interaction between the giant and the public.

This photo series was made with a 28-135mm f3.5 – f5.6 lens on a full frame body.

Walk with Amal is a production from Good Chance and Handspring Puppet Company, under the artistic direction from Amir Nizar Zuabi. Artistic productions in Brussels are productions from Bozar and Eastman with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Poets Joy Slam, Carl Noric and Taha Adnan participated as well, as hundreds of school children and teachers.

(Click on a photo to open the gallery.)

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