Little Prince lessons at Open Art Shelter

At the end of July the refugee shelter at Tempelhof Airport held an event to open a new sports hall there. As the GSBTB Open Art Shelter works there on a weekly basis, we were invited to be part of the event. Project manager Hania Hakiel tells of the project:

For the new sport space, we have been asked to paint frames for the photos of the residents. In another area we also painted outlines of some of the residents’ bodies, filled with messages inside. We responded to this invite with a collective painting event fruitful with art and thought exchange between children, adults, locals, migrants, refugees, volunteers and residents. No doubt, each of the frames carries a story. Below you find just one:

A little girl had just painted half of her frame when she was called by her girlfriends to play outside. „Ok, I will finish it“– said our volunteer Shima, and within 10 minutes turned an orange, shapeless something into a foxy fox, adding a word in Farsi that I could not understand.

“It means tame me, make me feel like I belong here, like I am yours. Have you read The Little Prince? Do you remember the conversation between the Prince and the Fox? This is what the Fox said.”

Of course, I remembered well. I grew up with this book and when I read it for the first time the word “tame” sounded as foreign and new to me as it did for the Little Prince.

“What does that mean — tame?”

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties … To me,you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need for you. And you, on your part, have no need for me. To you I am nothing more than a fox, like a hundred thousand other foxes. Butif you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….”

Shortly after our conversation one of our Afghan friends, a young woman, entered the room. She noticed the word written in her mother tongue andstarted laughing.

“Yes, people outside think we are like wild animals, wild foxes. They should stop being afraid of us.”

We spent some time chatting, going from laughter to seriousness, from hope to sadness. When I hugged her goodbye, I had another piece of the Fox’s wisdom on my mind: “You mustn’t forget it. You become forever responsible for what you have tamed.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince)