Artists have long used their work as a platform for addressing social issues, and Saint Hoax is no different. The Syrian artist has touched on animal cruelty, the perils of modern technology, and Islamophobia, among other things, frequently using Disney princesses — which he conceded to being "utterly obsessed with" — in his work.
This time, Saint Hoax brought his sociopolitical activism to (real) life. In collaboration with production house Plastik Studios and the NGO Malaak, his latest project encouraged Syrian refugee girls to dress up as their favorite Disney princesses to help raise awareness and funds for girls in refugee camps.
"These characters are associated with dreams, and this is something that every child should experience," Saint Hoax told A Plus. "Forget about their unrealistic waistlines, and dependency on their prince to save them. These princesses are a beacon of hope. I think growing up with these princesses was a very important part of my childhood, and I wanted to pass that experience to these extraordinary girls and young women at the camp."
So each girl dressed up as their favorite Disney princess and talked to Saint Hoax about their dreams.
Like 6-year-old Aya, whose dream is to be an actress.
We had the most delightful experience with Aya (age 6). After we took her pictures, she sneaked into her house and changed into another dress. 10 minutes later, she came back to get her picture taken again. She told us "no one took pictures of me yet". Of course we recognized her, but we took more pictures of her anyway.
She loves being in front of the camera, and her dream is to become an actress.
Beauty and the Beast is Aya's favorite fairytale. She styled her hair to look exactly like Belle in this shot.
Or Maram, who wants to be a nurse.
Cinderella is a dreamer and so is Maram (age 16). She believes in a brighter tomorrow. When we talked about the war, she managed to remember only the good parts out of this tragic experience. Maram loves kids and she takes care of most of the children at the camp. Her dream is to become a children's nurse.
But the project's purpose wasn't just for the girls to have a day to play pretend.
It was to raise awareness about the hardships that girls in refugee camps face, like lack of education, sexual and gender-based violence, and early marriage and pregnancy.
As a Syrian himself, Saint Hoax said he wanted to give back to his country. "Unfortunately, Syrian refugees are becoming associated with terrorism," he said. "I wanted to create a project that would clear the stereotypes that people have about Syrian refugees and spread awareness about the importance of educating children in refugee camps.
"We're hoping that by dressing up the girls as princesses, we can raise awareness and funds that will allow [the NGO] Malaak to grant these girls a proper education. As for the people who follow my work, I want them to be inspired to help. Not just refugees, but anyone who needs help. Awareness is crucial in situations like these!"
The project was created in advance of International Women's Day, and Saint Hoax said it was a great way to celebrate.
"The girls really enjoyed that experience," he recalled. "To many of them, it was a first. For instance, Hiba [pictured above] was born in the camp. This is the only life she had ever known. She never got to experience a proper childhood."
Saint Hoax and Plastik Studios also created a video with the girls:
On top of that, each girl was given access to Saint Hoax's Snapchat account for a day to show the world what their lives were like, allowing them control over their own narratives as opposed to having reporters telling their stories for them.
SaintHoax / Snapchat
Follow Saint Hoax on Instagram and Snapchat (username: SaintHoax) for more updates on the project.