Today, Monday 11th March, Muslim Graffiti artist, Mohammed “Aerosol” Ali, sprayed a wall owned by the Greenwich mosque to mark the 8th anniversary of the Syrian conflict and to highlight Islamic Relief UK’s Day of Innocence campaign.
The larger-than-life mural on Plumstead Road captures the spirit of the Syrian refugee children Mohammed met during a visit to Bekaa Valley refugee camp in Lebanon. The camp, which hosts around 350,000 refugees who are almost entirely dependent on aid, is situated in the mountains and close to the Syrian border.
The artist, who was visiting the area with Islamic Relief, was inspired by the innocent play of the children in the camp. Despite the freezing cold temperatures, the crowded tent structures and the backdrop of war, he was struck by how the children still managed to find ways to use the small area available to them as their own playground.
“I wanted to capture a moment in time and bring that and the camp to the streets of London. These children are real; they are living and playing in freezing conditions right now. Some of the families I met used to live in three storey homes, now they live in houses made of fabric. They rely on charitable handouts for food and fuel. I want to give people in the UK a window into their world. An image that bursts onto the streets, that’s immediate and accessible and that says war isn’t just a game we see on the TV. It kills innocent people and childhoods.”
While in Lebanon, Mohammed also spent time working with refugee children benefiting from a community centre run by the charity. The children he worked with are taking part in an educational programme that uses art, drama and music to develop life skills, nurture social cohesion and help participants overcome trauma. One of the aims of the centre is to give children affected by war and conflict the opportunity to enjoy the innocence of childhood again.
During the trip, the artist was inspired to create works in both the community centre with the children and out on the streets – using an old van and the coastal backdrop as a canvas. It was important ‘to leave something behind’, which might inspire and give hope to future generations.
Islamic Relief UK’s Day of Innocence is an annual campaign, launched for the first time this year, to remember the tens of thousands of innocent civilians whose lives have been lost to war, and to highlight the millions who have survived and still need our help.
The 8th anniversary of the Syrian conflict will take place on Thursday 15th March.
For further information or to request interviews, please contact Emma Wigley on email email@example.com OR contact Sultan Ahmed on 020 7593 3217 or 07471 033 566 or email: Sultan.Ahmed@islamic-relief.org.uk.
Notes to editors
- Mohammed Ali is an award-winning artist, curator and producer. He works collaboratively with communities to create unique and immersive arts experiences that inspire and engage people to experience and connect with art. He has been commissioned to work internationally with leading galleries, festivals, arts centres and theatres to produce large scale murals in open spaces in the communities where people work, live and play.
- The Greenwich Islamic Centre, also known as Woolwich Mosque, was established in 1973 and attracts over 1,000 worshippers at a time. It is the largest mosque in South East London with a sizeable Muslim community. The Mosque provides young people a range of services in a safe, secure and non-judgemental environment. Their Youth Centre project received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services in 2017.
- Islamic Relief is one of the largest aid providers in Syria (and to refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey) and continues to operate directly on the ground in Idlib.
- By the latest estimates, 6.2 million Syrians are living in protracted displacement in the country and 5.7 million have fled as refugees. Of the 6.2m displaced, 1.5 million, are in Idlib.
- In 2018, we assisted almost 2.5m people across Syria with a range of services from health and education, to food and livelihood support.
- Since the start of the crisis in 2011, we have provided more than £100 million worth of aid and assistance to Syria and helped more than four million Syrians inside and outside the country.