OPEN SPACE Jordan 2015

aptART (Awareness & Prevention Through Art) are back again with another worthy street art project. This project sees them partnering with USAID Takamol, to present OPEN SPACE – a street art initiative inspiring gender dialogue across Jordan, and aims to inspire men and women as equal contributors to a healthy society, economy, and political system.

Currently in Jordan women have one of the highest literacy rates in the Middle East at 97 percent. However, few of these women are transitioning out of the home and into the public space. Equal and open participation of men and women in the workforce and civil society is vital. To provide and encourage an open space for dialogue on gender equality, aptART  and USAID Takmol launched a street art initiative. Through community outreach and the creation of eight large-scale pieces of street art, the project aims to generate conversation from the community for the community.

The work begins in Rusaifa and moves from Zarqa, to Ajloun, Jerash, Sweimeh, Karak, Central Amman and East Amman. International and national artists work with teams of over 300 participant to build positive interactions between men and women through community workshops. The workshops result in collaborative painting across walls in high traffic areas. Participating artists include Ruben Sanchez (Spain), Jonathan Darby (UK), Suhaib Attar (Jordan), AKUT (Germany) and Kevin Ledo (Canada).

As part of Open Space, street artist Ruben Sanchez joined forces with young men and women from Rusaifa, Jordan, to discuss gender boundaries in their society and how to push towards equality. Collaboratively they came up with ideas to push boundaries on gender issues and transformed their ideas into art, and with the help of Ruben designed a mural to stand pride of place on a large public wall in Rusaifa. Check out his interview here.

Men and women in ‪Jordan‬ worked with Jonathan Darby to demonstrate the importance of freedom for all genders inside and outside of their homes as well as liberating them from the judgement of others and their own self-doubt. Freedom inside and outside

In East Amman, local men and woman actively joined together with universities and community groups to discuss gender issues such as tradition, customs and the pressure to conform, often preventing women from taking larger roles in the public sphere. To change and challenge these traditions it was agreed that  courage and persistence from the current generation and in the next was required. Participants were free to paint messages to inspire courage for people to break gender stereo types across the wall with Caligraffiti element from Wesam Shadid. Jonathan Darby painted a mother interacting with her daughter to inspire courage within her to make change for the next generation. A beautiful strong concept.

In Jerash, Jordan community workshops produced some new ideas. Participants then painted their concepts inside a massive plant growing and being nurtured by a young boy painted by Suhaib Attar artwork. Their ideas encourage freedom of thought and challenges the norm. Its time to plant and nurture new ideas for a successful and equal society.

The correct values plus equal participation of all genders, creates a successful society. Woman and Men both need to work together  to bring opportunities for women to move outside of their homes and into the community. To highlight the importance of working together men and women from the Zarqa community painted a public wall with ideas. Their ideas demonstrated how all genders can work together for the success of their society. Street artist Kevin Ledo then painted two hands encircled by a golden orb and the face of a woman with her eyes closed as she envisions a better future to create equality while places her palm into that of a males. Together in prayer.

After workshops with the community, young adults voiced concerns came to the conclusion that they needed to change from inside to make changes in the community at large. They developed motivational statements and Ghandi famous quote to inspire themselves and others.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

They painted the statements on the wall next to Kevin Ledo’s giant local girl with an upward gaze looking to the future with a smile, she represents the future and empowering her is vital to creating a better world. Reminding everyone who passes by that change is possible and it starts with you!

AKUT of HERAKUT paints a mural in the capital, Amman, inspired by spoken ‘slam’ poetry on gender issues, an initiative by TakamolJordan. Seven young Jordanians employed verse in expressing their views on gender issues and advocating for social change in a poetry slam. AKUT, inspired by the poetry slam, paints a face half a man and half a woman, perhaps representing HERAKUT, a succesful street artist duo with his partner HERA.

In communities throughout Jordan, people voiced similar fears about shame and judgments to want change. To encourage people to be fearless for gender equality, artist Suhaib Attar artwork painted a giant lion as a cross-cultural symbol of bravery and courage, because a lion doesn’t concern itself with the opinion of sheep.

This project is implemented by USAID Takamol and aptART with support from IREX and USAID. AptART is a group of artists and activists working to give marginalised populations a creative outlet with the aim of amplifying their voices and improving the environments in which they live. The USAID-funded, Takamol is a Jordan Gender Program in the region’s flagship initiative focusing on mainstreaming gender through policy reform at the national and community levels.The name “Takamol” comes from a unique Arabic expression that connotes a harmonizing and synergetic relationship between men and women.

“We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.”  Malala Yousafzai

Any contribution whether great or small goes a long way to make AptART projects possible. Please donate to help AptART continue its work.

Images courtesy of aptART



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