Little Amal, a refugee puppet who has traveled to Europe, will visit New York

Little Amal, a 12-foot-tall puppet depicting a 10-year-old Syrian refugee child, has been to around a dozen countries, visited London’s Royal Opera House and other attractions, and even has meet the Pope.

But this fall, Amal will embark on a whole new adventure, crossing the Atlantic for the first time on a trip to New York that promotes an open arms of refugees and immigrants.

Amal is scheduled to arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport on September 14, with plans to travel to all five counties, visiting children, artists, politicians and community leaders en route go, according to an announcement Thursday from Walk Productions, which co-produced the visit with St. Ann’s Warehouse.

Her original 5,000-mile journey from Turkey to Britain last year – including visits to migrant camps – was designed to highlight the plight of millions of Syrian refugees in Europe , who traveled long distances across the continent to flee the country’s civil war. Its art director, Amir Nizar Zuabi, said the project was supposed to end there, but about two-thirds of the way through the journey, the creative team realized that Amal might have a future beyond that. those particular geopolitical circumstances.

“She became an excuse for communities to come together and be kind to foreigners,” says Zuabi, “and by doing that, understand something about themselves — understand what to eat. celebrate in their community.”

The towering puppet – operated by three people, including one on stilts – will visit St. Ann’s, and several other New York cultural institutions will join her tour, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center and Harlem’s Classical Theatre. The visit, which cost more than $1 million, is scheduled to end in early October with a trip to the Statue of Liberty.

In 2018, St. Ann’s screened an Off Broadway play, “The Jungle,” inspired by the character Amal. First staged at the Young Vic Theater before moving to the West End, “The Jungle” is based on what its screenwriters, Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, observed when they set up a center Interactive art in a migrant camp in Calais, France. The play will return to St. Ann’s next February.

Susan Feldman, artistic director of St. Ann’s, said she first saw Amal’s effect on the public during a trip last year to an elementary school on the outskirts of Paris, where students began shouting and following her as soon as they looked. into her.

“She became a Pied Piper,” Feldman said. “It’s very magical.”

Although Amal’s presence is not overtly political, Feldman said she feels that the visit to the United States will send an important message in a country where immigration has become a “political football”. ” and immigrant children face dangerous living conditions.

For Feldman, Amal’s visit to Europe was like a parade of innocence and hope. “To have that on the street in a conspicuous way can be beautiful,” she said.

Designed by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, Amal is delicate – her arms and upper body are made of bamboo – and needs a lot of maintenance during her many months of travel, says Zuabi. Earlier this year, she visited young Ukrainian refugees in Poland.

But New York may not be her last: Amal has had requests to visit countries around the world, he said, and has plans for trips elsewhere in the US next year.

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