Amman, Jordan – Jordan has repeatedly made the news over the years as the site of recurring refugee crises. Half of the country’s population of more than eight million people is estimated to be of Palestinian origin, with 2.1 million still registered as Palestinian refugees. UNHCR, the refugee agency, places the number of Iraqis who have found refuge in Jordan at between 700,000 and one million, while hundreds of thousands of Syrians have also streamed into the country amid an ongoing civil war in their home country.
Although the refugee influx has placed an enormous strain on Jordan’s social, economic and political fabric, the country’s cultural sector has benefited. Iraqi artists in particular are credited with shaking up Amman’s art scene in the 1990s.
“In Iraq, artists had already been exposed to a variety of European schools and different styles, and their audience was receptive to their experimentations,” Jordanian artist Ghassan Abu Laban told Al Jazeera. “Seeing their work in Amman’s galleries really pushed local artists to new limits.”
Many artists from throughout the region continue to produce work in Jordan today. According to Iraqi artist Shayban Ahmad: “I owe a lot to Amman. It has been a peaceful space where I have been able to work, experiment and grow.”