Basima, a Syrian refugee enrolled in the ICRC MEI program. Credit: Mohammad Al-Hayyani/ Alrai Newspaper

Jordan: When Art Becomes a Salvation

Art is a representation of life itself; it reflects the artist’s feelings, emotions and thoughts. For Basima, art has always been her passion and way of escape, but after fleeing to Jordan in 2012, art has become a source of income for her and her family.
Article 03 October 2021 Jordan

Basima Al-Bitar is a 47-year old mother of two children who studied art in Syria. Although it was hard for her to discover her own artistic identity when she started her university education, time and experience were more than enough for her to unleash her potentials.

Al-Bitar learnt that she has more than one way of expressing her passion and as she dreamt about building a career in this field, her marriage and children drove her away from perusing this dream.

After the armed conflict erupted in Syria in 2011, Al-Bitar fled her home country in 2012 and her children went with their father to another country. As a refugee, Al-Bitar struggled to survive and meet her basic needs, as a mother, her biggest concern was reuniting with her children who were with her ex-husband.

After long days and nights, she got to hold her boy and girl in her arms to start the new chapter of her life.

Reflecting on her experience, she said “Jordan was my refuge, and art was always my salvation,” Al-Bitar expressed.

Basima, a Syrian refugee whose artwork business was financed by the ICRC, painting in her house. Credit: Mohammad Al-Hayyani/ Alrai Newspaper

Al-Bitar decided to build her long-lost career in art, as she lived in Madaba, a Jordanian city renowned from ancient times as the City of Mosaics. Indeed, it was this city that nurtured her talents and inspired her to start working with mosaics (which are regular or irregular pieces of colored stone used to create a pattern or design).

After that, she started making soap in her own house and out-of-house ingredients. Her soap was good and suitable for body and skin use. In addition to that, Al-Bitar recycled paper into artwork and designed wooden boxes. She bought materials and colors out of the money she raised and used this to start her artistic career.

As she painted her thoughts with colors and expressed her view of the world with dots and lines, Al-Bitar managed to open her own business and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) granted her a cash grant under its Micro-Economic Initiatives Programme.

“I can now express my thoughts through drawings, colors, and designing dresses. Thanks to the ICRC support I can provide a dignified life for my two children while working in the field I love at the same time,” she said.  

After the grant, Al-Bitar expanded her business and in line with her soap and artwork, she started working with designing clothes and painting on them with a very special material she discovered after thoughtful thinking and extensive research.

She brought colors back into her life with her paintings and with her designs and managed to create dresses of joy out of sadness. “I love art in every sense of the word; art gave love back to me in the form of a dignified, humane and appropriate life for me and my kids,” she said, looking every inch satisfied with her vocation.

On her hopes and dreams, Al-Bitar said that she wants to train people and teach them how to make their own soap and draw their own paintings. That’s a good way to share what gives you joy, and she clearly indicates that by doing this, she will derive fulfillment in giving back part of what has so far made her content and happy.