May 31, 2023
As part of a fall national tour, Philadelphians will have the opportunity to gather and watch a 12-foot puppet of a young female Syrian refugee trek across the city and visit its historic institutions.
Little Amal, a public art project comprising a massive puppet of a 10-year-old, will visit Philadelphia Sept. 13–14. Her pit stop will include a series of cultural events with officials from the Philadelphia Theatre Company, The Colored Girls Museum, Ballet X, Taller Puertorriqueño, University of Pennsylvania and other institutions across the city.
Little Amal is considered an international symbol of human rights representing the plight of refugees. Her Sept. 7–Nov. 5 walk across the U.S., a 6,000-mile journey, will involve meeting with disenfranchised and displaced people across America, from Indigenous groups to communities of color whose societal contributions have been overlooked. Little Amal will also visit recent migrants and descendants of early immigrants to learn about the communities that established roots in the U.S. generations ago.
The walk is meant to provide an in-depth look at the country, which has long served as a refuge for those seeking safety while struggling to manage its own issues related to immigration.
"The story of the United States has been shaped by a complex history of migration and movement that touches every corner of the globe," said Amir Nizar Zuabi, artistic director at The Walk Productions. "But the myriad challenges of today's interconnected world are forcing many to revisit America's status as the land of opportunity. Our hope for Amal is that she can spur conversations in communities across the country around the important role of refugees and newcomers in writing the ongoing story of the United States."
Little Amal is the subject of "The Walk," an ambitious traveling theater project that began in 2021. The story focuses on a refugee girl who loses her mother and journeys 5,000 miles, from Turkey to England, to find her. The character was inspired by "The Jungle," an immersive play set in a refugee camp. The 12-foot puppet was created by the Handspring Puppet Company, a group of South African designers who also created puppets for the hit play "War Horse."
"Amal Walks Across America" will not be the puppet's first time in the U.S. Last year, Little Amal visited New York City and was greeted by Mayor Eric Adams, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Whoopi Goldberg and members of the NYC Council Women's Caucus before participating in events across the five boroughs. The New York Times described her as "the hottest celebrity in town."
In 2021, Little Amal made a similar, four-month trek across Europe, visiting Pope Francis at the Vatican and meeting notable figures like Jude Law, Mark Rylance and the Mayor of Lviv, Ukraine, who allowed the puppet to visit refugees impacted by the ongoing war.
Little Amal's journey to the U.S. coincides with Welcoming Week, a national initiative that seeks to foster dialogue among immigrants, refugees and native-born citizens. Organized by Welcoming America, the annual event is commemorated in Philly each September with film screenings, seminars and an awards ceremony featuring city officials.
"As a certified Welcoming City, we are excited that Philadelphia was chosen as one of the 35 locations that Little Amal will visit as part of 'Amal Walks Across America' produced by The Walk Productions in association with Handspring Puppet Company," said Kelly Lee, chief cultural officer and executive director of the city's Office of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy. "The organizers of 'Amal Walks Across America' are in the process of coordinating with multiple Philadelphia-based cultural organizations — including the city of Philadelphia's Office of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy — for her visit this fall."
Schools that want to get in on the festivities can use education packs that explain the story behind the character and provide age-appropriate activities about empathy and community.
While city officials will release more information about Little Amal's visit in July, those who are interested in learning more about the national tour and her expected stop in Philly can follow updates on Little Amal's official website.