Mr Aminikia, the Flying Carpet Festival is aimed at refugee children in the Turkish region of Mardin, close to the Syrian border. Where did the idea come from?
I met Pinar Demiral, the founder of Sirkhane Social Circus School which offers music workshops to child refugees in the war-torn Kurdish region. I visited Mardin with her and saw children playing on the streets with tanks roaming around them. I started recording songs with them and saw the need for music, art and beauty. In 2018 I quit my teaching position at San Francisco University to start the festival with Sirkhane.
“The kids know that people from around the world will come. Children need consistency as well as beauty”
What kind of festival is it?
It's a multidisciplinary performing arts festival with a strong element of storytelling, combining high-profile international artists and young artists from communities in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon. We choose a story relevant to the children: Last time, it was the Persian story "Black Fish". We take the production to very remote areas and it spans a full emotional spectrum– they can laugh, be scared or be excited.
How do the children benefit from the festival?
Sirkhane offers daily activities for the children all year. The festival itself is a climactic moment: the kids know that people from around the world will come. Children need consistency as well as beauty. The cultural scene doesn't engage enough with refugees while humanitarian organisations don’t focus on the need for culture, art and beauty for refugees.
“The cultural scene doesn't engage enough with refugees while humanitarian organisations don’t focus on the need for culture, art and beauty for refugees”
Where did the name “Flying Carpet Festival” come from?
It comes from the idea of getting on the carpet and going on a magic journey. It reflects the idea of us bringing art to you, rather than you having to go to art. It also has an ironic twist: We’re from the “Orient” and we want to appeal to western donors who might not understand concepts from Rumi or Hafiz but know about flying carpets!
How do the kids inspire you?
They've changed my life. Adults think we have to simplify content for children, but actually children are far more imaginative than adults. Many of the children have gone through child abuse, labor, early marriages. Yet they are also the most energetic and joyful creatures on earth. That was shocking to me. Coming from European/Western countries, we often think that we are bringing something to the children. The fact is, they have a stronger message for us.
Interview by Atifa Qazi