Local arts organizations join traveling 12-foot-puppet in an event designed to bring awareness of the struggles faced by refugees
Little Amal puppet

Little Amal, the internationally-celebrated 12-foot-tall puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee girl, will be arriving in Columbus on September 22 as part of her epic 6,000-mile journey across the United States this fall. Throughout the two-month trek, which will span more than 35 U.S. cities and towns for 100+ events, some of the country’s most influential cultural institutions and artists will come together to greet Amal and add their unique color to the rich tapestry of America’s story.

People from throughout Central Ohio are invited to greet Amal and participate in her journey through Columbus. Activities, including the opportunity to make welcome signs and love notes for Amal, as well as paper craft-making to commemorate the occasion, will begin at 5 pm in Genoa Park in Downtown Columbus.

At 6 pm, Amal will begin her Columbus journey near the U.S. Supreme Court Building and will continue across the Broad Street bridge and into Genoa Park. During her walk she'll be joined by artists and performers from the Columbus community, including poet Sara Abou Rashed and dancers from Momentum, Thiossane West African Dance Institute, and Warithat Arabic Dance Troupe, who will share in welcoming Amal to Columbus.

Attendees will share in the spirit of welcome, build an awareness and understanding of the challenges of displaced individuals and families, and learn more about Amal’s journey and organizations dedicated to serving immigrant and refugee populations.

Food trucks will be on-site at Genoa Park throughout the event. Parking is available free of charge in the parking lots at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum.

“Art plays many roles in a society. One of those roles is to bring people together for shared experiences and to create empathy for one another,” CAPA President and CEO Chad Whittington said. “CAPA takes seriously our role to remind all of us of our shared humanity. This project recognizes the importance and value of our new American communities. We are honored and excited to be presenting Amal Walks Across America -- with our local, national, and international partners -- in Columbus.”

According to data from the City of Columbus’ New American Initiative, Columbus is home to more than 155,000 residents who were born in nations including Bhutan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, and Mexico, among others. The region’s Somali population is the second largest in the United States, behind Minneapolis. Immigrants from Mexico, Central America, South America, Asia and Africa are helping to shape the culture of neighborhoods in the city and region. This is seen in the many new restaurants, small businesses, shopping centers, and festivals that have become a part of everyday life in Columbus.   

“Anyone who has entered a foreign world knows the power of a warm welcome. We’re thankful to our hundreds of cultural partners who have thoughtfully organized events of welcome for Amal, allowing this young girl to learn about her new home and make new friends along the way,” said Nizar Zuabi, Artistic Director for The Walk Productions. “We invite Americans from every corner of the country to join us in not only welcoming Amal, but also empathizing with the millions of other migrants who have bravely entered this country in search of a better future.”

“Amal Walks Across America” in Columbus is presented by CAPA (Columbus Association for the Performing Arts), the City of Columbus, Mayor Andrew Ginther’s Office, Columbus City Council, Councilman Emmanuel Remy’s Office, US Together, Welcoming City, Bell Tree Productions, and Zen Genius. The event is presented with the funding support from PNC Arts Alive.

The Walk Productions is led by David Lan and Tracey SeawardPlaywright/Director Amir Nizar Zuabi serves as Artistic Director, Sarah Loader is Executive Producer, and the Associate Artistic Directors are Khadijat Oseni and Enrico Dau Yang Wey.

The U.S. Producing Partner for Amal’s journey is THE OFFICE performing arts+film, a global producing and production company that leverages art for social good. Amal’s Impact and Outreach will be led by The Soze Agency, a social impact creative agency located in Brooklyn, NY. Marketing and advertising for Amal’s journey will be led by Cause Lab, a human-centered advertising agency, and NYC-based public relations firm DKC.

Amal was designed and built by the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa, creators of the award-winning puppets for the hit show War Horse. Amal is inspired by a character in Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson’s play The Jungle, about a refugee camp in Calais, France.

Amal’s journey is not unique. Half of all refugees are children and half of all school-age refugee children have lost their opportunity to have a formal education. To try to help, The Walk has established The Amal Fund with the nonprofit Choose Love 501 (c)(3). By donating to The Amal Fund with Choose Love, you are helping to provide education, food, shelter, emergency medical care, legal assistance and much more to these children in need.

About Little Amal 

Little Amal is a 12-foot puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee girl who has traveled across 13 countries meeting more than a million people and watched by tens of millions more online. Little Amal will journey 6,000 miles across the United States in one of the largest free public festivals ever created. More than 300 artists, museums, local community organizations and cultural institutions are hosting welcome events in the 37+ towns and cities that Little Amal will visit from September 7 through November 5.

The walk is a celebration of art, hope and shared humanity that aims to unite communities and refocus attention on the urgent needs of refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers, and to highlight the rich cultures and contributions immigrants bring with them. 

Amal walks for the hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people of all ages roaming the world in search of safety, half of whom are children. When she walks, Amal brings people together. She gives voice to marginalized people (although she does not speak), and she is welcomed by ordinary people and people of power.

Funding Credits

Amal Walks Across America in Columbus is made possible by CAPA (Columbus Association for the Performing Arts), PNC Arts Alive, and Columbus City Council.

Amal Walks Across America was made possible with an inaugural investment from the Doris Duke Foundation, as well as leadership support from the Bezos Family Foundation. 

Additional generous support was provided by the Backstage Trust, the Barr Foundation, Sunny Bates, Bloomberg Philanthropies, CARE, Choose Love, The Conrad Prebys Foundation, the Donald A. Pels Charitable Trust, El-Hibri Foundation, Landry Family Foundation, Ruby Lerner, the McMillan Stewart Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Opportunity Fund, The Shapiro Foundation, Students Rebuild, T. Rowe Price Foundation, the Thorne Cox Family Foundation, Barbara Tober in honor of Diane Love, and The W Trust.

About CAPA

Owner/operator of downtown Columbus’ magnificent historic theatres (Ohio Theatre, Palace Theatre, Southern Theatre) and manager of the Riffe Center Theatre Complex, Lincoln Theatre, Drexel Theatre, Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts (New Albany, OH), and the Shubert Theatre (New Haven, CT), CAPA is a non-profit, award-winning presenter of national and international performing arts and entertainment. For more information, visit www.capa.com.

The Ohio Arts Council helped fund CAPA’s 2023-24 season with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, education excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. CAPA also appreciates the generous support of the Greater Columbus Arts Council and The Columbus Foundation’s Gladys H. Goodwin Fund, Jane H. Zimmerman Arts Fund, and W.W. Williams Family Field of Interest Fund, with the assistance of the Ingram-White Castle Foundation.