Party at Syrian festival Tilburg

Dutch and Syrian people unite on the dance floor Sunday afternoon, during the festival of Syrian culture at Peerke Donders in Tilburg. Tijmen Berger, coordinator Peerke Donderspark, was overwhelmed by how many people showed up: “We did not expect this, especially with this weather.””They are dancing and singing,” Bergen says proudly. He means the Dutch and Syrians that are on the dance floor together. Several Syrian artists are entertaining the visitors. One of them is rapper Sami Kattash (19), who has been living in the Netherlands for five years. He raps about Syria, the power of money and loneliness. The Syrians in the room are attentively listening to his lyrics, the Dutch look at him admiringly.

“When I am drawing, I can relax and clear my head.”

Apart from rap, there is also room for swing music. Hands go up in the air and someone shouts “Habibi!” (honey). People are clapping and some are showing of their dance moves. Outside, people hand out snacks, that are all gone in a heartbeat. Kids get their faces painted and inside, there is an art show. Former city poet Jace van de Ven reads the Tilburg alfabet aloud. “A first language lesson for Syrians,” he calls it.

Quick drawing
Abdulrhman Abo Hajieh (21) is proudly standing next to his drawings of the Dutch royal family. In Dutch, he says that quick drawing is his hobby. “Professionals can make a drawing in ten minutes. It takes me thirty minutes still, because I have not been doing it for very long,” he explains. He gets a lot of compliments from curious festival visitors. Some of them are very interested in buying his art.¬†Abdulrhman does not want money for it, though. “This is my hobby, when I am drawing, I can relax and clear my head.”

“Here, the Dutch make contact with the people they hear about in the media.”

Connection
Carla Jungerhans is making tea and coffee during the event. At the end of the day, she had handed out 600 cups. “It was very, very busy,” she says. “But the busier, the better,” she adds. She thinks the festival is a very nice initiative. “It fights¬†the negative atmosphere. Here, the Dutch make contact with the people they hear about in the media.” She also thinks it is good for the Syrians. “It is nice for them, since they have been in the temporary shelter (the former tax office) and have nothing to do. It is nice that they get in touch with Syrians that have been living here longer, it makes them feel welcomed.”

Bergen is very content with the event. The goal was to help the Dutch to get to know the Syrian culture and improve contact between people. “We have been organizing events with refugees twice before, but now it has the name ‘festival’ and apparently people are drawn to that.” There were around 600 to 700 people there.

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