Wrood Shihab and the NGO Caídos del Cielo

Madrid (Spain) – Mosul (Iraq)

“We had to leave our home. After IS arrived to Mosul, the situation in the city was unsustainable and our own lives were in danger” – That is how Wrood, a 28 years old Iraqi woman, explains her experience while having a coffee on the terrace of a bar located in a famous square in Madrid. She looks a little shy, maybe because of the language barrier, as she doesn’t speak much Spanish yet, but she isn’t hiding anymore. Probably her recent contact with the theatre has helped her to open up and live a life again.

Mosul was once the second largest city of Iraq. Located in the northern part of the country, has been on the news bulletin for several years all over the world, especially since IS took control of the city and until it was freed by Iraq’s army in July 2017. Despite the liberation of Mosul, the life of the ones who remained there is far from back to normal, as the city was completely brought to ruins.

It was in 2014 when life changed for many of the Mosul inhabitants. Different ethnic groups were victims of unprovoked religiously motivated murders, assaults, theft, kidnappings, and suffered the destruction of their cultural sites after the arrival of the IS.

Wrood and her family were forced to abandon Mosul in 2015 in order to save their lives. She had to leave behind the city where she was born and raised, and there she left her home, her friends, her life. She started a journey that took her through different countries before arriving to Spain “We had to leave due to the unsafe situation we were living in our streets and homes. To leave Iraq we first passed the Syrian border. Then we arrived to Turkey as war refugees, and after some time we were transferred to Greece. Finally, thanks to the United Nations, we were given asylum in Spain. Since 2017 I live in Madrid with my mother and my brother”

Wrood is a hairdresser. She learned her profession soon, right after losing her father at an early age, when she had to quit school to follow her mother’s professional path in order to help the family business, a hairdressing saloon. Once in Spain, Wrood and her family entered in a social intervention program of Provivienda association, that helps population at risk of social exclusion to find a job and start a new life. “My brother has already started to work in a restaurant. At first, I tried to work as a hairdresser, but my style wasn’t the one Spanish people want. I am currently taking a 5 months training to learn the most popular Spanish hair styles. Once I finish, I will be able to start working”

But Provivienda not only helped her with the professional life, but also put her in touch with Paloma Pedrero, the Spanish actress that brought her to the theater “I heard that she was organizing a play with immigrants and refugees living in Spain, and I decided to give it a try. Up to then I hadn’t met many people and thanks to being involved in this theater project I could meet most of the people who are currently my friends”. The play is called Una guarida con luz and talks about love and about life, where the story is told in a very original way “thanks to the fact that all the roleplays are dogs, I hadn’t any problems with the language, as I don’t speak much Spanish yet and dogs don’t really talk…”

The NGO Caídos del Cielo is the organization behind the play Una guarida con luz. It was founded in 2009 with the believe that the theater has the power of transforming lives. Since then, it has carried out several projects with vulnerable and socially excluded people by developing their artistic skills on stage.

For Wrood it was relatively easy to get used to the stage, as back home she was exposed to art since she was little, mainly by her grandparents. Bart is one of her friends in Madrid, he is from Morocco and he’s noticed how she’s changed after she engaged with the project “I met her four months ago and I have seen a great evolution, there is a huge difference” In Wrood words “this opportunity has taught me many things, and I have finally been able to have good feelings again. I have filled my time with something that made me grow, I have forgotten the war and the long journey from Irak. Paloma and her association Caídos del cielo helped me to put behind all the destruction and many terrible things that happened to me lately”

Besides being an actress, Wrood also writes poetry, and one of her dreams is to publish a book with her poems. She is currently enjoying the present and looking forward to the future “I want to be a famous hairdresser” – she laughs “and I want to perform at play in Arabic and Spanish, so I could express myself to the fullest. I hope it can be our next project with Paloma Pedrero” she wishes.

Unfortunately, not all refugees or immigrants are open to participate in such initiatives. Her advice to all of them is concise “Art is life’s soul”. And here she gifts us with one of her poems, translated into Spanish from Arabic, that she wrote to a friend she met thanks to being involved at Una guarida con luz:

Iratxe es la flor de todas las estaciones, flor de ojos bellos, supe que sufría cuando vi las lágrimas en sus ojos. Deseaba ser aquella agua que Dios puso en sus ojos y vivir en ellos, los más bellos jamás creados. Sus lágrimas se precipitan como el néctar de las flores.

Tus pestañas son casi líneas nocturnas que al cerrarse se abrazan como dos amantes. Al verte por primera vez, y al ver aquella nariz, dije: ¡Oh Dios, qué belleza es esta de la que mis ojos quedaron prendados! Tus labios, Iratxe, son finos como alas de mariposa, de aroma espléndido y de su abrazo son los pétalos de flor.

La blancura de tu pelo es la luz de la luna cuando llega la noche, aquella flor duerme y en sus cabellos permanece. ¡Oh tú, flor de ojos lánguidos! Desconcertada estoy por quién avista las perlas en el mar únicamente, pues son tus hermosos dientes en el mar de tu boca.

Tu esbelto y hermoso cuerpo inspiraron esta poesía. La atracción de una flor en su madurez, a los 40 años, el comienzo de una belleza sin fin. A Dios gracias doy por descubrirte, flor nunca vista por mis ojos.

 Cuando me habló, sentí en sus palabras el cariño y la seguridad. La história árabe habla de Al-Ándalus, sentí que esta flor llamada Iratxe era la Al-Ándalus anhelada por el pueblo árabe, sin embargo, fui testigo de esta tierra al sentarme en tu cercanía.

Soy feliz de sentir en ti el aroma de Al-Ándalus…en la que se encuentran las raíces de mis ancestros árabes. Este es el amor que siento a una tierra hallada en el cuerpo de alguien cuyo nombre es Iratxe.

If you want to learn more about this initiative please visit: Caídos del Cielo

This project has been funded in part by the program Art for Change by “la Caixa” Banking Foundation

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