Few young men refugees group and a Spanish volunteer, Anaïs Esmerado, worked together to paint a Hope Wall in the facade of the squat where around 350 refugees live in central Athens. We’ve been working for 6 weeks about how we could give a positive message to an extremely difficult situation. All the refugees worked really hard to learn draw and paint techniques and specially to transform the hard situation they live in with a positive view. We became a little family and now is time to put some more color in another squat.
We had worked for four weeks before painting the wall. Started with basic drawing and painting classes, sculpture workshops and museum visits. We were working on a general concept where we tried to avoid war memories. They all worked very hard throughout the process.
This is the final result of all the work. 50 meters that go from hope to future. Starting with the word “Hope” and a refugee child that was drawn a long time ago and which symbolizes the hard road ahead. This labyrinth represented the difficulties that people face when escaping from war. In the drawing there are many paths that cross each other. The brown one means the road from Syria to Palestine, Iran and Turkey. The blue path represents the boat from Turkey to Athens. And the gray one is a hard path that most of them chose to cross the Balkans so they can meet their families. On the other side of the wall, we drew the word – Make – as a reference to all that you have to work for to not lose hope, and to also be strong and to try and use any waiting time as something useful like learning a language, because time goes and never comes back. Finally, the last word – future – just after – make – symbolizes the way it can get easier and how we have to look towards the future as that is the most important thing!
The background colors also have a meaning, red means the past, the blood and the war. The red turns into yellow meaning the moment is changing and it can become the right moment. But it also represents some uncertainty as no one knows exactly when the war will end and sometimes where in Europe they will end. The yellow turns to green and finally blue. The color blue is our chance of hope and freedom.
In the squats there are a large number of unaccompanied youth who choose to be in the urban centers to feel more integrated. The ages of these boys range between 16 and 25 years approximately. They are the first members that the family sends out of Syria fleeing from being conscripted into the army or, alternatively, going to prison. In most cases, these young people have been in transit for more than a year trying to reach a European country.
With not many resources to gain direct access to Europe, most of these young people work in Turkey, under appalling working conditions, until they get enough money to take a small boat and reach a Greek island, where they are a time until they are derived to the capital. Once in Athens, when they get to the squats, the lack of motivation is a common denominator in this group, which in turn is extremely vulnerable to drugs and, in some cases, child prostitution mafias.
The project consisted of transforming traumatic and destructive emotions into a hopeful vision, using visual language and a creative process based on experimentation, freedom of expression, analysis, criticism, learning different techniques and teamwork.
The most important thing in this whole creative process was to get the participants to create their own hope through motivation. In fact, we got it. The first message established, by decision of the team, was “Help makes future“, understanding that without help, it is more difficult to move forward and that in complicated situations, we all need help from others. But while we were painting the wall, the young people realized that it was not Help but Hope that really makes the future depend. So Help became Hope and from there came the final project.
“Now we have hope. And God willing, we can go to Germany. And we have more and more hope. Thank you”
“We have defied our reality with the help of Anaïs. We should all go the same way, from its beginning to its end, although that way is more difficult”
He doesn't even like to paint but he was there every day ready for everything. Always looking for fast solutions and motivating the others to come. Positive and singing, it's really impossible not to love him.
"I have a future. While I can breathe I will have hope" his positive attitude is contagious for the rest of the group.
Sport lover and the official translator. His future is to become a football player.
He is always smiling and he is a natural professional painter and camera hater. Yosef. Sweet, young and naughty, he came a few times enough to liven up the day with his smile and joy.
The youngest one. The hope for the group.
She volunteered from Barcelona to lend a hand to the project.
Young great man and gentleman, polite and careful with details.
Great painter, best documentary filmmaker. The best thing he has is a huge heart.
With his contagious laugh, he convinces everyone to paint. He is always extra careful with paint brushes.
He doesn't speak English but everyone can understand through his eyes how much great soul he has.
Crazy about dance and selfies, anytime he was there, there was always music.
He volunteered from Barcelona to lend a hand to the project.
Always positive and full of energy. Painter at night and chef on weekend. He’s the soul of the project.
Kind, cheerful and worker!
Born artist, his talent was an inspiration for all.
He picked up the paint brush and never let it go.
Lucky for him, he traveled to Europe during the project.
Sweet, young and naughty, he came a few times enough to liven up the day with his smile and joy.
The serious but noble-minded one. You'll find him on the top of the ladder painting the most difficult corners of the wall.
The Grup TEB Cooperativa is an association that promotes the employment of those with a cognitive disability. Disseny per a la Inclusió together with TEB Sant Andreu with design students from ESDAP Catalunya on the occasion of a co-creative project.