I've been working on this piece for a couple of months, but it began longer ago, back in August, with an image I just couldn't get out of my mind.
We've all seen it. A photo that in its stark simplicity speaks volumes, that hits us in the gut on so many levels. This boy. Aleppo. Syria. War. Children. Unspeakable suffering. Impotence--how do we make it stop? Refugees--how can we help--and cope with--the innocents fleeing from hell? How do we retain our humanity while this goes on, and on, and on?
Here, in the U.S., it is so easy to think of the collateral damage of war as nameless, faceless. But this boy, Omran Daqneesh, put a face on the suffering of thousands, and I felt instead that we, here, safe and removed and smug, were the ones without names, without faces, living our lives far away from the brutal reality of Omran Daqneesh. And so I put his photo on the wall, along with some family photos, to help us remember what we mustn't ignore.
I drew (with my very feeble drawing abilities!), colored, and stitched a wedding portrait, a vacation photo, and a couple of childrens' school photos--blessings in our ordinary lives, made both more precious and more trivial compared with the boy in the ambulance in a war in a country far far away. The background is a piece of upholstery fabric, probably 60 or 70 years old, something I found in my mother's stash of odds and ends. It reminded me of wallpaper from the 1930s or 40s or 50s, the kind you might find at your grandmother's house. I overstitched the flowers and lines to make them more vibrant.
I don't know what happened to Omran Daqneesh after that day in Aleppo in August, if he and his family were eventually evacuated with other refugees when the city fell to government troops, or if they met some other fate. But as the news cycle turns and fresh horrors and turmoil absorb us, we must not forget that boy in the ambulance, nor the thousands and thousands of others, who also have names and faces, and deserve to display their own family photos on the wall.