Every picture tells a secret story. And a new collection of art by young people from across the globe - some from war-torn countries such as Syria and Iraq - shows a maturity, complexity and raw talent that holds a unique mirror to the 21st century child.
Almost every child scribbles, paints and draws a piece of art but often their creations are not taken seriously. They end up displayed for a limited audience in some corner of their schools or held by magnets on a fridge at home.
But if one is to look at these works seriously, one discovers a rare insight into what children believe and how they interpret current events in their lives.
"Children's art is as important if not more important than adult art as they are the present and the future," says Dr Mohamed Abouelnaga, a renowned Egyptian artist and the curator of the 3rd Sharjah International Biennial for Children's Arts.
Spanning more than 61 countries, the biennial at the Sharjah Art Museum is an impressive collection of international dialogue through expressions in various forms, from 2D to 3D to collages, videos, photos and computer graphics, as well as sculpturing and printmaking.
"They are getting the same treatment professional adult art would get," says Dr Abouelnaga. "And they deserve it."
Art arriving from war-ravaged areas such as Iraq and Syria, and from within refugee camps, is more mature in subject than the rest. It seems the children are "robbed" of their childhood
For instance, a teenager in Iraq drew and cut a red skull-like face screaming with another black head inside the mouth, a piece Dr Abouelnaga compared with Edvard Munch's famous The Scream.
A teenager in Syria captured three Syrian boys in three photos mimicking the "see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil" hand gestures. A Palestinian child in a refugee camp in Lebanon drew the sacred Dome of the Rock mosque in bright kaleidoscopic colours, while several others from the same camp drew birds with a tiny, human-like figure clinging to the featured creature or watching it fly away without them.
Every piece tells the story of the child and the country.
Selected from more than 5,000 entries, the exhibition under the patronage of Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, the wife of the Ruler of Sharjah and the chairwoman of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, has 3,197 pieces - 676 from the Arab world, 1,050 from other countries, 127 by special-needs children and 889 by group projects.
Open to the public for free until January 25, there are top winning pieces in different age groups but, the organisers maintain, all the pieces on display are special and winners in their own right.
"You can do a whole study on these pieces," says Dr Abouelnaga. "You can find out through art the psychological, the social and the political state of the young and how the environment in which they are is influencing and changing them."
Called Restart, the international art project called on children and youth from the UAE and around the world to reboot and start from zero, to express themselves without any strings or limits.
As a result, the pieces mirror the child of the 21st century, a generation of children living between different civilisations and cultures. Questions of identity, religious values and what a home looks like are explored in almost every piece at the exhibition.
"There are trends. Arts pieces from Italy, Czech, Netherlands, for instance, are very bright and full of rainbows and colours compared to art pieces from Syria, Iraq and Senegal, where they are less colourful," says Dr Abouelnaga. The pieces by the special-needs children stand out, reflecting a sense of innocence and a completely different view of the world. Often animals and a home are dominant themes in their pieces.
From : The National.