Take Me By The Hand Exhibition

Feature29.01.2020Marielle Marktanner
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On January 16th, 2020 an extraordinary event took place at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom Headquarters in Potsdam, Germany. FNF Lebanon and Syria, together with Mishwar NGO opened the exhibition, entitled “Take Me by the Hand” featuring the original works of art, photography, animation, and crafts produced by Syrian youth living in Akkar, North Lebanon.

Following several years of collaboration, FNF Lebanon and Syria worked together with Mishwar NGO to reproduce an art exhibition that occurred in Beirut, Lebanon in April 2019. The exhibition in Beirut left a heartfelt and moving impact on all who received the opportunity to experience it; children literally took guests by their hand with glimmering eyes, leading them to their art works and explaining their stories and how these are reflected in their art.

The stories told the experiences of war, leaving home, coming of age, and new beginnings. They reflected finding freedom despite challenging circumstances.

In order to recreate the previous exhibition experience as best as possible, FNF Lebanon and Syria worked on creating an audio-visual exhibition experience for all guests who attended on Thursday, but also for all future guests of the exhibition, which will move across numerous locations. This was realized through the Take Me by the Hand web-app, found at tmbth.com.

The web-app features the original sounds of life in Tel Abass, Akkar, where Mishwar NGO works. Furthermore, the web-app includes videos that aim to transport the audience to experience the reality of life in Tel Abass. Last but not least, the web-app also features the original photography on display at the exhibition with the children’s original English-translated annotations.

Aside from the unique web-app, the exhibition also included numerous authentic elements to form a bridge between the children who created all that was displayed at the exhibition and the German audience. One of these elements included the tent that was suspended at headquarters, through which every member of the audience had to walk, in order to join the panel discussion. Another such element included the disposable cameras used to take the exhibition photography and the beanbags, which were for sale at the event.

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A big part of Mishwar NGO’s mission is its dedication to economic liberalism. This is reflected in two ways. The first is by empowering members of the local community to learn a skill or craft and the second is by providing the individuals with the opportunities to create a small enterprise from what was learned. On this basis, FNF Lebanon and Syria has also supported Mishwar NGO in a tailoring workshop in preparation for this exhibition, which also resulted in beanbags being sold at the exhibition opening on January 16th. Furthermore, the objective is to move away from the perception of charity and rather encourage individuals to develop their creative skills and create profit from these.

These points were also stressed by Mishwar NGO Founder and Director, Anthony Collins who was on the discussion panel moderated by Denise Dittrich, and also included FNF Scholar and former Mishwar NGO volunteer Bassel Abdulwahab and former FNF Lebanon and Syria Consultant Marielle Marktanner.

Bassel Abdulwahab discussed his experiences in Lebanon as a Syrian at the outbreak of the Syrian war and then as a Syrian living in Germany while Marielle Marktanner discussed FNF’s involvement in making this project come to life.

FNF MENA Regional Director, Dirk Kunze, opened the evening by sharing with the audience more about the work of FNF Lebanon and Syria and more about the work of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa.

Following the panel discussion, a Skype call to the camp in Tel Abass was held where the audience could briefly interact with the kids who created the artworks on display at the exhibition. It was also then revealed that the night prior to the exhibition opening, a fire at the camp broke out resulting in the burning of 15 out of 25 tents at the camp. In response, Mishwar NGO is holding an emergency fundraiser (where donations are being accepted on their website).

To conclude the evening, the audience was invited to enjoy snacks and beverages while networking and viewing the displayed works of art and photography around the FNF HQ office.