Painting hopes and dreams…

Latest project by AptArt in Iraq with Ernesto Maranje. In the lead up to World Refugee Day, UNHCR and its national partners, Qandil LCN (Legal Clinic Network) and Intersos Erbil Office worked with aptART – Awareness & Prevention Through Art to hold painting workshops across Iraq with youngsters from host communities, those who are internally displaced and those seeking refuge from war in neighbouring countries. Iraq has experienced decades of displacement, yet Iraqis continue unwavering hospitality to both refugees and those displaced within their own country. In the workshops, children were coached by young Iraqi artists working with aptART on painting and artwork, giving them a much-needed outlet for their creativity along the themes of hopes and dreams, education, livelihood and shelter.



The children were asked to paint and express their feelings through murals and paintings on recycled UNHCR tent canvas which will be displayed for World Refugee Day, on June 20th. The youngsters’ paintings on squares of old UNHCR tent canvases cut up into squares were sewn into a larger mosaic painting with the theme of “Thread of Humanity.”

In Sulaymaniyah, international artist, Ernesto Maranje worked with Syrian refugees and Iraqi youngsters, asking them what they would like to paint. They suggested a variety of animals including bears. To pay tribute to the strength of parents protecting their children, Ernesto Maranje painted a bear emerging from a waterfall carrying its cub. Along the wall children from Syria and Iraq painted message of hope and happiness. While many people are no longer in their homelands, the painting serves as a reminder that we all have a homeland in our parents.


The peacock is a popular bird in northern Iraq particularly among the Yazidi community which originates in this mountainous area. This peacock is painted on a busy street outside a school in Duhok for girls who have been displaced by conflict in Iraq and the region. With the support of 17 local artists and 18 girls who attend the school, @ernestomaranje painted a giant colourful peacock with the eyes of its feathers trailing down the almost 50 meters of wall. Inside each eye the artists and school girls painted what they see in humanity. The wall serves as a reminder that while we all have different visions, our visions can co-exist.AptArt World Refugee Day 2017

In Erbil, youth attending art workshops selected animals and flowers including a deer, daffodils and roses – all flora and fauna native to the region. The deer symbolizes grace even in difficult times. The youth then all painted leaves with ideas of hope, humanity and individual freedom. In Baghdad, young Palestinian refugees painted a colourful garden of hope on a UNHCR Refugee Housing Unit that will go on display.

“Humanity is the thread that holds us together”
– Herakut –

AptArt World Refugee Day 2017

A selection of paintings were brought to HERAKUT.  Each square is an individual’s idea or identity and the red thread that binds it all together. We are a diverse and colourful tapestry, held together by our humanity. This piece is currently exhibited in Baghdad. This was made possible by Qandil and UNHCR Iraq.

Photography by aptART Director Samantha Robison


For more info check the sites of  aptART  |  Ernesto Maranje  |  Herakut