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Little Amal comes to visit

It does feel like we’re getting close to the apocalypse here, with the smoke warnings. Yesterday was gloomy; today is dark and damp, more like the end of October than the beginning of June. I’ve turned on the heat! Will this forest fire crisis lead us to take climate change seriously, to understand the destruction and danger on our doorstep? Don’t hold your breath. No, on second thought — hold your breath.

But yesterday, in the middle of my editing which continued until midnight, a joyful interlude: Little Amal came to visit Regent Park. What a marvel — some incredible person came up with the idea for this eleven-foot-tall puppet of a girl-child refugee, to travel around the world illuminating the life of the displaced. She was sponsored by the arts festival Luminato and is appearing all over Toronto this week. We gathered to await her and then there she was. You can see the smiling young man inside her chest who controls her face — she can smile and close her eyes — and walks for her, and the two young women who move her arms, yet she is completely human and vulnerable, sensitive and real. A small boy in the crowd had a soccer ball that they kicked back and forth until he picked it up and walked away, and she turned and continued her walk, surrounded of course by a thicket of phones. Her long hair floats in the wind. 

The idea of this particular visit was that she’d learn about residential schools. Accompanied by an Indigenous woman in a jingle dress, she stopped at trees covered with yellow ribbons and touched them thoughtfully, then at a women’s drum circle, where she danced. She finished her walk dancing to a children’s band and choir. Her visit was brief — three-quarters of an hour or so. Not much happened. She is of course silent. But powerful and very beautiful.

A much needed reminder of our common humanity at this dire time on our planet, with more horror in Kherson, the corruption in our province unchecked, the human heart, it sometimes seems, shrinking. 

Playing soccer

You can see the puppeteers

With the drum circle, behind her.

In 2009 I saw the play War Horse in London before it became famous and was stunned by the sensitivity, skill, and imagination of the puppeteers. Sometimes puppets say what we cannot. Thank you, once again, to artists, who come up with crazy ideas and make them happen and change our hearts and minds. Never more needed than now.


Wiki: The name Amal means “hope” in Arabic. Little Amal represents a nine-year-old Syrian refugee girl who, in The Walk project, travels alone across Europe to find her mother. “Dozens” of designers and craftspeople combined to create the puppet, which is controlled by at least three puppeteers: two to move the hands, and one interior puppeteer who walks on heavily-weighted stilts, and controls the head, eyes and mouth by hand via a mechanism called the harp.

In some areas, Little Amal’s reception was mixed, with some racist or even violent responses, but in most towns the performance was a joyful occasion. On the South Bank in London, she walked side by side with Handspring’s Joey the War Horse.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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