In 2016, after hearing about Rami Adham, the Syrian Finn who smuggled toys into Aleppo, I began knitting some small dolls to send with him to the children living in that demolished city. But after thinking about it, I realized that it might be quite interesting to work with local refugee and asylum-seeking children and adults. I immediately began to think about work being done with children, using dolls to help them become accustomed to injuries and disabilities, or lowering their anxiety before medical procedures.
This led me to think that children and adults who are refugees or asylum seekers may have come from violent contexts or may not have had access to adequate health care. I started to experiment with embroidering scars onto the dolls and making dolls with missing parts of limbs. Once I learned how to do those things, I could encourage workshop participants to create dolls that look like themselves or their friends and family.
There are several different directions I hope to explore in the near future with this project. First, I hope to display the dolls made by workshop participants with injuries and disabilities in DaDaFest or other disability and arts contexts. But a larger scale project that I am now exploring is recreating two types of scenes
1. Photos that reproduce particularly disturbing news photographs, but having the dolls replace the people in the images.
2. Family photos, where the dolls show who migrated from where by reproducing the photo but with traditional dress from their home country/region.
The long-discussed ‘compassion fatigue’ has been compounded greatly over the past ten years as so many areas of the world have struggled with massive violence of many different kinds, from the aftermath of so-called Arab Spring movements to the daily kidnappings and killings in Venezuela to the violence of the developing dictatorships in countries like Turkey, the Philippines and Russia. And in countries all around the world, immigrants are being blamed for every kind of social, political, and economic challenge: these sentiments swept Trump into the US presidency; Alternativ für Deutschland got 12.5% of the vote in September 2017, enough for the first time to claim seats in the Bundestag; violent anti-immigrant protests erupted in Johannesburg in February 2017. Such sentiments are seen in many countries around globe. By using these small, cute dolls to represent immigrants and victims of violence, people who see these installations will be encouraged to think about the issues with more compassion.