DARK TO LIGHT:
A Syrian Child's Journey
The Expressive Art of War-Wounded Syrian Refugee Youth
Dark to Light - A Syrian Child’s Journey, is an exhibition of expressive paintings on loan to us from injured Syrian refugee children who have crossed the border into neighboring Jordan. There Polus Center provides prosthetic rehabilitation services and psychological trauma care at the Sir Bobby Charlton Centre for Support & Rehabilitation in Amman.
Expressions of Both Horror and Hope
This exhibit highlights the transformative impact expressive therapy can have on the rehabilitation process of children experiencing multiple traumas. These images reveal a continuum of recovery reflecting powerful emotions the children feel, but often do not have the words to express. Over the course of the therapeutic process the subject matter slowly shifts its focus from dark to light, death to life. As hope emerges it reveals a depth of resilience, courage, and optimism for the future that, if supported, will carry each child through the healing process placing them firmly along the road to recovery.
Kahled, a 17-year-old resident of Daraa, with cerebral palsy lost his family in the Syrian Civil War. He made his way to the Bader Center in Jordan to receive treatment and experienced severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. At first, Kahled could only walk on his tiptoes with assistance. Mood swings and low self-esteem drove him to self-isolation. Gradually Kahled regained control of his body and mind with treatment and learned to walk again with physical therapy. Art therapy provided Kahled with training to become a prolific painter. Today he lives in the Zaatari camp, paints and continues to work with ADT and the Polus Center. In 2017, Kahled’s paintings were chosen by Giles Duley, a professional photographer to be exhibited along with his own work in an upcoming exhibition. Kahled’s goal is to become a famous artist, a doctor or a football player.
Eman grew up in Daraa with eleven sisters and five brothers. While on summer vacation in September of 2012, an airplane flying overhead dropped a bomb killing two of Eman’s sisters and badly injuring her leg. At eleven years old her leg was amputated to just below her knee, and she returned to her home in Daraa. She stayed there for seven months, but the food and medicine were so scarce that she was forced to leave for Jordan with her sister. Together they arrived at the Zaatari camp in June 2013 where a psychologist recommended that she go to ADT’s Al Bader Center. There she began her therapy. Eman says that when she is producing art her stress goes away she is transported to a dream world where everything is happy. Painting her experiences in this state allows her to attain a better perspective on what has happened to her. She wants to use her art to spread the message about what is happening in Syria. Her dream is to become a famous artist with her paintings in galleries around the world. She sees this exhibition as her first big step towards that dream. Eman is 16.
Sami Farraj lost his home and parents in the spring of 2011 when Syrian Armed Forces entered the village of Ihnken, Daraa. Eight-year-old Sami and his older brother fled to Jasem, a “safe zone” village where a bomb killed two of his young cousins and injured Sami. He was rushed to a field hospital at an abandoned school where both legs were were amputated. In 2013 the brothers traveled to Zaatari camp in Jordan for medical help where Sami encountered ADT and the Polus Center. He underwent two additional surgeries, and began the physical therapy to prepare him for prosthesis. Psychological trauma therapy program introduced Sami to painting. His art work ranges from dark depictions of the trauma, a strong connection to family, newfound love, and hope. For the first time since his injury, Sami says he feels life is worth living. He loves theatre and continues to find joy in his painting. Sami has performed in several productions at a Zaatari camp theatre and hopes to become a lawyer, a painter, or a theater artist.
Fatima Aldayat grew up in the Syrian countryside, living with her parents and 5 brothers in the village of Ghouta. She was 12 years old when an airstrike by the Syrian Armed Forces devastated her home killing her entire family and damaging her spine, leaving her a paraplegic. After several unsuccessful attempts at different rehabilitation centers Fatima was brought to the Al Bader Center to participate in the Polus Center program for physical and psychological trauma therapy. There she went from being a full paraplegic to moving independently with a walker. Through the art therapy program, Fatima discovered a love for painting and demonstrated exceptional ability. In time she improved socially, she started wearing make up and showed other outward signs of confidence and socially efficacy. Now her ambition is to continue her healing process and to pursue an education.
In August of 2017, Photographer / Director, Troy Word traveled to Jordan for the Polus Center to film the children’s expressive art therapy program, and the opening of the Sir Bobby Charlton Centre for Support & Rehabilitation. A graduate of School of Visual Arts, his photography career has taken him throughout the world for advertising, editorial, and celebrity clients. Troy has just completed “The Presence of Joseph Chaikin” an award winning feature documentary about the life and work of the revolutionary Experimental Theater Director.