Little Amal captures the heart of NYC during first US visit

After traveling 6,000 miles across 12 countries, puppet Little Amal — an international symbol for human rights — will visit Washington Square Park on Wednesday, Sept. 28.


Yezen Saadah

Little Amal will share her message of human rights to Washington Square Park as part of her trip around the five boroughs. (Yezen Saadah for WSN)

Yezen Saadah, Staff Writer

Created by the Handspring Puppet Company in Cape Town, South Africa, Little Amal is a 12-foot puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee girl. Since July 2021, Amal has traveled across cities, villages and towns in 12 countries, including Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Ukraine and Poland. Amal is inspiring hope and solidarity for refugees internationally. On her first visit to the United States, she walks the streets of New York City.

Organized by The Walk Productions and St. Ann’s Warehouse, “Little Amal Walks NYC,” a part of the broader project “The Walk,” acts as a celebration of the cultural diversity that is being challenged by the ongoing global refugee crisis, embodying the millions of displaced children worldwide. Amal’s story is as universal as it is intimate, and “The Walk” allows people all over the world to share their compassion with those who are marginalized, misrepresented or mistreated.

“For immigrants and refugees worldwide, New York is a place of opportunity and promise,” Amir Nizar Zuabi, the artistic director of The Walk Productions, said in a statement in advance of the puppet’s arrival to New York City. “But there’s a tension running through U.S. history that suggests not everyone is welcomed here. This is a crucial moment to explore these themes. We’re moved and grateful that so many artists and organizations have wholeheartedly joined us to bring Amal’s message of hope and shared humanity to the people of New York.”

Along with the people she symbolizes, Amal’s walk in New York has a more personal narrative. During her now 14 days in New York City, Amal has been searching for her uncle Samir, wandering around the city with no clear destination in mind — embodying the same story shared by millions of displaced children worldwide who have been separated from their families.

After landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sept. 14, Amal has been, and will continue to be, welcomed by New York City’s residents and visitors throughout all five boroughs. There will be 55 unique events — one of which will be held in Washington Square Park. She will end her journey at the St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn on Oct. 2.

After setting foot in Manhattan on Sept. 15 in Grand Central Terminal, Amal made her way to the New York Public Library, where she was welcomed by an enormous, lively crowd. Adults and children alike who resonated with Amal’s story expressed their empathy and excitement for the refugee story to be heard all over the world. However, Amal’s social media campaign has been criticized for sensationalizing the Syrian refugee crisis, with some expressing concern over how her massive exhibition has inadvertently obscured its intended message. 

Since her arrival, Amal has visited the people of Times Square, Central Park, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Brooklyn Public Library, Coney Island and many more sites throughout New York City.

Other organizations and theater companies will join “The Walk” to help welcome Amal to the city, including the performance company Yaa Samar! Dance Theatre based in Palestine and New York City. YSDT will create a dance performance near the Charging Bull in Bowling Green, Lower Manhattan, on Oct. 1 at 1 p.m, which will explore the power and strength of young immigrants as they face the reality of pursuing a life in America, often against great obstacles.

“In this piece, Amal stumbles upon the Bull and she doesn’t know whether or not it is friendly,” Samar Haddad King, the founder and artistic director of YSDT, said. “This piece is a testament to all of the children who have been displaced — those who have had to navigate new places, languages and cultures at such a young age. Our goal is to show a not-so-comfortable glimpse in Amal’s journey and how she has found strength and solidarity in times of fear.”

“The Walk,” in association with La MaMa Experimental Theater Club and NYU, will be holding a theatrical procession in Washington Square Park on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m., welcoming Amal to the East Village and the university community as a part of her final days in New York City. 

Contact Yezen Saadah at [email protected]