Little Amal, a 12-foot puppet that represents a 10-year-old Syrian refugee girl searching for her mother, arrived in Baltimore this weekend to spread the message of hope and love in honor of all displaced people. She is on a 6,000-mile journey across America for the next two months.

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. The puppet brings people together through cultural celebrations in neighborhoods where refugees have built communities.

Amal’s journey has been a long one, including visits to Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom in 2021, and Ukraine, Poland and the Netherlands in 2022. In the fall of 2022, Amal completed a journey through the five boroughs of New York City.

This weekend, Amal visited Mayor Brandon Scott at City Hall and received an Amal-sized library card, had an ice cream named after her at The Charmery at Rash Field, participated in a cultural dance at Patterson Park, and ended the visit learning about the rich Black arts and culture of Baltimore at the Love Groove Festival in West Baltimore.

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Here are images from the visit.

Little Amal, a 12-foot puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee girl, visits City Hall to meet Mayor Brandon Scott and the children of Baltimore. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
Children wave Mexican flags for Amal as she visits City Hall on Friday. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
Amal looks down at three boys who are looking up at her and holding birds and steamers on poles.
Children were invited to run around Amal with birds and streamers during her visit to Patterson Park on Saturday. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)
Children gather around Amal in front of City Hall, her first Baltimore stop, on Friday (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
Little Amal, a twelve-foot puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee girl, visits Patterson Park and the children of Baltimore on September 16, 2023. Members of Jovenes En Accion with Yaretzi Cornejo in the yellow skirt, put on a dance for Amal.
Jovenes En Accion, with Yaretzi Cornejo in the yellow skirt, wave goodbye to Amal on Saturday. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
Lele, a Mexican dancer in a rainbow headdress and a marigold necklace, holds Amal's hand.
Lele, a character from Mexico who is also alone but becomes close with Amal by sharing her culture and heritage during their walk through Patterson Park, holds Amal’s hand. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)
Little Amal, a 12-foot puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee girl, visits Patterson Park and the children of Baltimore. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
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Members of Jovenes En Accion put on a dance in Patterson Park. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

So what IS Amal made of?

Little Amal’s body is made of molded cane bound together, and her head, arms and legs are made of carbon fiber. Inside her torso, a puppeteer is on stilts and they operate her hips and control her head. Her arms are operated by two handlers on the outside.

In a mini YouTube documentary about the making of Amal, puppeteer Adrian Kohler of Handspring Puppet Co., the company that brought Little Amal to life, said, “These three people have to think the same character. If the person inside on the stilts decides to turn left, the other two have to respond immediately. They all have to think the same thought.”

Fellow creator and puppeteer Basil Jones followed by saying, “We call that ‘group mind,’ when three people are saying the same thing almost intuitively and, when they click, the puppet becomes a very powerful communicator and empathizer.”

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Kaitlin Newman is a photojournalist specializing in multimedia coverage. Her main areas of focus are politics, conflict, feature and breaking news. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Professional Writing from Towson University, which is where she is also the professor of photojournalism. 

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