An oversized puppet named Little Amal walks across America

On September 22nd, Little Amal, an oversized puppet in the guise of a young refugee, will be walking into Cincinnati in a public festival highlighting the plight of the displaced.

The 12-foot tall puppet, in the embodiment of a 10-year old Syrian refugee girl, will have begun her six-thousand miles long walk across the United States on September 7th in Boston and set to arrive in San Diego on November 5th.

After visiting iconic American sites such as the U.S. Capitol, Boston Common, and the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, Little Amal will enter Cincinnati via the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge.

The Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra (CCO) under the executive directorship of Evan Gidley is the local partner for the project. The CCO learned about The Walk while researching another upcoming festival, We Are One: Hope, an October event highlighting the immigrant/refugee experience.

Amal Walks Across America is produced by The Walk Productions in collaboration with Handspring Puppet Company. Over 1,000 artists and artistic partners will curate meaningful local events reflecting the uniqueness of their communities.

Amal began her journey at the Syrian border in 2021 and has since visited ninety-four global cities and such countries as Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, the UK, Canada, Poland, and Ukraine.

Amal’s journey celebrates the rich stories and contributions of refugees, immigrants, and displaced people, and also pays tribute to the compassionate communities that welcome them. “Amal” means hope in Arabic, and the symbolic puppet carries that message of hope for displaced people everywhere, especially children who have been separated from their families.

Amir Nizar Zuabi, artistic director of The Walk, describes the event as a way to highlight the potential of refugees, not only their dire circumstances. “Little Amal is (12 feet) tall because we want the world to grow big enough to greet her,” he comments. “We want her to inspire us to think big and act bigger.”
Hear part of a TED broadcast by Zuabi here

Little Amal’s visit to Cincinnati is projected to directly impact 1,500 children and 2,000 adults in this area.

On Friday, September 22, at 3 p.m., the project launches locally with Amal walking from Covington, KY across the Roebling Bridge, mimicking the 19th century escape by enslaved persons into the free state of Ohio.

At the beginning of the bridge, Amal will hear a trio of vocalists singing Wade in the Water. Cincinnati’s Welcome Team of children and displaced peoples will carry art projects and signs of welcome for Amal. As they cross the bridge, participants in The Walk will perform the choral composition by Melanie DeMore, Lead with Love.

In Cincinnati, Amal will be greeted by Mayor Aftab Pureval and representatives from the Kroger Wellness Festival. Amal will enter the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, where she will be greeted by a Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra Brass Quintet performing a fanfare and Simple Gifts.

Amal will visit the Grand Hall of the museum where the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra strings, led by CCO Associate Conductor Daniel Parsley, will perform Suad Bushnaq’s The Borrowed Dress and Cecilia McDowall’s Everyday Wonder: The Girl from Aleppo in collaboration with the Northern Kentucky University Choirs, Thomas More University Choral Studies, and Cincinnati Public School students. The concert ends with an encore performance of Wade in the Water, followed by a reception with Mayor Pureval, donors, and partners.

People are invited to participate in Little Amal’s visit by registering to join the Cincinnati Welcome Team and Walk with Amal as they carry an art project such as a welcome banner or by providing volunteers to exhibit at the Freedom Center or help promote the event.
For up-to-date information and registration details for participating, visit Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra's page about Little Amal's visit. 

Greater Cincinnati area 4th-8th grade students will be provided with educational materials to prepare for the visit of Amal. Local organizations including the Cincinnati Hamilton County Public Library, Learning Through Art, Inc., and WAVEPOOL will host workshops for creating visual art.

Poster for Little Amal walking across America

An Amal Fund has been set up to support education and rebuilding for children who have fled war and persecution.

Visit the webpage to learn more.

Gidley is thrilled to have the CCO play a major role in one of the largest collaborative art projects ever staged as a symbol of hope for those in the region who are immigrants, refugees, or displaced persons. “We hope that Amal’s visit to Greater Cincinnati will leave a lasting impact,” Gidley affirms.

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Read more articles by Connie Springer.

Connie Springer is a publicist, writer, photographer, and watercolorist. View her work at her website and portfolio.