Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A 12-foot-tall puppet representing refugees is coming to Austin on Friday

A large puppet with a puppeteer inside looking down on a crowd of people holding sticks with paper butterflies on top.
Courtesy of The Walk Productions and Respective Collective
Little Amal has traveled across more than a dozen countries during her journey to promote human rights.

A giant puppet is making her way to Austin right now. Despite her name, Little Amal is larger than life, and she’s on a cross-country journey to raise awareness of the challenges migrants and refugees face in the U.S.

You can catch her this Friday at two different events in Austin: a dance performance at Huston-Tillotson University at 5 p.m. and a bat-themed ceremony at the state Capitol at 6:30 p.m. Both events are outdoors, free and open to the public.

Who is Little Amal?

Little Amal, whose name means "hope" in Arabic, is a 12-foot-tall puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee, based on a character in a play called The Jungle about a migrant camp in France. Amal has traveled across Europe and met more than a million people since her journey started in 2021 to promote human rights and raise money for refugee children. She walks with a crew of puppeteers, four of whom control her at any given time.

This fall, she’s traveling across the U.S. to draw attention to the experiences of migrants in the country, especially near the Southern border, according to a press release. She started in Boston on Sept. 7 and will end up in San Diego on Nov. 5.

“Refugees shouldn't be viewed as a problem. They should be viewed as potential,” said Bruna d’Avila, creative producer with The Walk Productions, the organization behind Amal. “The first thing that you have to do with Little Amal is you have to look up … and I think just the act of having people from different places looking up at a refugee girl — it's just physically a very empowering thing.”

What’s special about her visit to Austin?

D’Avila said every event in every city Amal visits is unique, based on the local organizations she partners with. At Huston-Tillotson, Amal will go through a health “check-up” symbolizing the services offered by Austin’s refugee support groups, which include the Austin Refugee Roundtable, Interfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT) and the Multicultural Refugee Coalition. Then she’ll join Ballet Austin for a welcome dance. There will be free food from Afia, crafts made by refugees for sale and music from the university’s brass band.

“The big hope of the event is that it's festive and promotes Austin as a welcoming city to refugees, which it historically has been and is,” said Chad Pevateaux, co-director of the refugee program at iACT.

At 6:30 p.m., Amal will make her way to the Capitol’s south lawn, where she’ll befriend a “cloud” of bat puppets designed and operated by Austin’s Glass Half Full Theatre, a multilingual puppet theater promoting social and environmental justice.

“[The bats] travel where they can find shelter, safety and take care of each other in community,” said Indigo Rael, an artistic director for the theater. “That seemed to really resonate with the cause of why people need to migrate, why people are refugees — because they're looking for shelter, safety and a community.”

Kids can show up early at 6 p.m. to make their own bat puppets with youth art nonprofit Creative Action. There will also be music by Minor Mishap Marching Band and Mariachi Las Alteñas, and City Council Member Vanessa Fuentes will present Amal with an award of bravery.

After walking with the people of Austin, Amal will continue on to San Antonio, Marfa and El Paso.

Chelsey Zhu is the digital producer at KUT. Got a tip? You can email her at
Related Content