Over the course of the past few months, the world has undergone a drastic change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During these uncertain times, the creative response of young people to the crisis has once again been a good example of actions to bring up important messages of hope, resilience and support.
Samaa (17) is a young painter and activist from Iraq, who seized the opportunity and harnessed the power of creativity and digital technology during the pandemic. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, she had founded a volunteering network called “Life just like a palette” to support young talents and their artworks through workshops and exhibitions. Due to the restrictive measures undertaken to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the community, recreational activities, particularly exhibitions, had to find new ways to interact with creators and visitors. This is why she decided to apply her organizational, digital and design skills to create an online exhibition titled “Together we face Corona.”
“I decided to set up this online exhibition to illustrate young people’s ideas in relation to COVID-19 consequences, the lockdown, the importance of barrier gestures and the necessary sanitation measures in case of symptoms. The “Together we face Corona” exhibition gave the spotlight to 44 young people and 64 drawings, art works and pictures. I held the exhibition through our network “Life Just Like a Pallete” – a voluntary, educational and artistic network, that I have established with my mother. This network, which has attracted 295 young people and children, provide them with free services such as exhibitions, workshops, and the publication of their drawings on our digital spaces, such as our website and our social media channels. Our network also offers support to young and promising talents across Iraq - especially the ones who have faced challenging life situations such as orphans, people with disabilities or in difficult family conditions. As a director of positive cultural campaigns, my main mission is to invite young people and children to join the network and encourage them to interact with us through creative drawing and writing, cultivating positive thinking and energy. To give visibility to young creators, we have created a website and a Facebook page, where we publish the best artworks. Moreover, by setting up the “Together We Face Corona” exhibition, we try to link human values with art, education and creativity, helping young people to build a positive mindset, highlighting the importance of will, attempt and positive thinking in making a better life, and emphasizing on the values of human rights, love, hope, tolerance and cooperation, as well as calling for standing together against extremism and discrimination.”
Having this experience inspired Samaa and encouraged her to expand her work, inviting and connecting even more young people to be part of the “Life just like a palette” network. Art helps Samaa to overcome life challenges, as she was born in difficult medical conditions, that made it impossible for her to walk. She had to spend most of her time at home, following distance learning and trainings, as she was not accepted in school in her community. However, despite facing challenging life circumstances, she found the strength to inspire others, spreading hope and love around. Samaa is convinced that her volunteer art project will help youth re-orient their thinking towards a more holistic, connected and inclusive mindset and invigorate their individual and collective actions to create opportunities and address social challenges.
“Helping and supporting others makes me feel valuable and I try my best to encourage young people to participate in the exhibition and give them an opportunity to share their artworks and positive energy with everyone in the world. My aim is to contribute to the creation of a generation that will lead my country towards a better future, and I hope that art will help me to achieve this goal. As of now I am working on setting up a series of new online exhibitions for youth and children”.
In the uncertain times of the crisis, where all the familiar things have acquired a new reading, the “Together we face Corona” exhibition gave a unique opportunity for young artists to share their ideas and opinions not only about the COVID-19 crisis, but also regarding the shape of the future, introducing them as torchbearers for peace, resilience and support.