We are honoured to have Nadine Kaadan contributing to The Arab British Centre´s blog! In her post, Nadine shares her experience of the art-making and storytelling workshop that she gave this week as part of Nour Festival´s creative learning programme.
Nadine Kaadan is an award winning children’s book author and illustrator, who aims to spread reading culture in the Arab world using Syria’s rich heritage as inspiration. Nadine has published over 15 books in the Arab region with various publishers, and believes that children’s books are the most creative and effective tool to convey interesting and relevant ideas to young readers.
“As part of Nour Festival 2015, I had the honour of giving a story reading for my book, ‘Ghadan’, followed by an art workshop at the Damascus Room Exhibit of the V&A Museum. ‘Ghadan’ is about a little Syrian boy named Yazan as he lives through the civil war, and as he faces the uncertainties and anxieties of so many children in Syria. The story ends with hope, with his mother asking Yazan to dream about a peaceful park to play in, so they can paint it on the wall of his bedroom together- until they’re able to go to the park again.
I’ve read this book to Syrian children in different circumstances- many of whom had to flee their homes and live in refugee camps to escape the war. I found that the story helped to give them a safe space to share some of their own anxieties and trauma with living through the war. At first, I was a bit worried about the idea of explaining a painful conflict to children in the UK, and wondered what their reactions would be- but I was touched to see that they arrived to the workshop with such empathy about what Syrian kids were going through.
It was so beautiful to see how engaged they were with the story, and the ways in which they even related to Yazan’s disappointment and sadness, with some of their own little disappointments that all children go through in life.
We were able to have the event next to the lovely Damascus Room Exhibit at the V&A thanks to Ines Tercio, who curated the workshop. It was an unforgettable experience, and some of the children were fascinated with the beautiful details in the display- especially the centuries old decorated wooden door and the hand painted Damascene mosaic tiles that hanged on the side.
Together, all the children drew colourful old Damascene style houses on postcards, and I then asked them if they would each write letters on these postcards, addressed to Syrian children who left their homes because of the war.
The messages they wrote were beyond my expectation; they were touching and heartwarming and heartbreaking- all at once. The children expressed how unfair they felt it was that Syrian kids had to go through all this. Some even asked me how to write the word ‘love’ in Arabic, so they could put it in their postcard.
One of the kids wrote that he thinks the war will finish soon, hopefully before Christmas…”