Art as a lifeline

Jango Mousa fled to Switzerland to escape the Syrian civil war almost ten years ago. Today he lives with his family near Kreuzlingen. Here he is creating a huge mural in the Federal Asylum Centre – in the place where he himself was once taken in as a refugee.

NK 03689
Proud of his work: Syrian artist Jango Mousa in front of the mountain panorama.

"Art saved me." In 2014 Jango Mousa fled the war in Syria and came to Switzerland. Today he says: "Art helped me to understand life. And to be free in what I do." Mousa comes from the multicultural city of Amuda in north-eastern Syria. "The whole region is like one cultural site. I grew up in this environment, and it has stayed with me until today."

Mousa has travelled widely, having worked in Dubai, learned Russian in Azerbaijan, studied at the St Petersburg Academy of Arts and also having worked as a theatre artist in Russia for ten years. Back in Syria, he taught art at Damascus University. After coming to Switzerland, he set up a painting therapy course for children, and now, as a freelance painter, he has designed and painted a mural on the interior walls of the Federal Asylum Centre (FAC) in Kreuzlingen.

The project was commissioned by the FAC’s head supervisor, Till Zeretzke. "The idea of making the centre more attractive, for example with a mural, is not a new one. Mousa suggested painting a mountain panorama of the whole of Switzerland on the barren walls," he explains, adding: "We want to create more atmosphere, and security with it." Friendly and always good-humoured, Zeretzke, along with his counsellors, has made it his mission to support the asylum seekers closely during the maximum of 140 days they spend here. And to give them a prospect: a beautifully painted mountain panorama rather than grey exposed concrete walls.

The painting was completed at the end of 2022. Jango Mousa worked for half a year on his mountain panorama, whose peaks range from the Alpstein chain to the Valais Alps. It was important for the former refugee to involve the asylum seekers in the process. "I couldn't give them any artistic work, of course, but they helped me with prepping and cleaning up."

The reaction has been positive all round. "The response has been great; most of the asylum seekers are happy to have a splash of colour in their everyday lives," Zeretzke concludes. The project has given him huge joy. "I watched the mural grow practically every day and so witnessed the progress and changes." And who knows, maybe one day Jango Mousa will be able to bring more variety to Kreuzlingen FAC.

NK 03709
Jango Mousa explains how and where he wants to paint in animals typical of the Swiss Alps.
NK 03725
Fully committed: Jango Mousa invested half a year to complete his work.
NK 03751
A welcome splash of colour: the mountain panorama on the interior wall at Kreuzlingen FAC.
NK 03860
Highly interesting: Jango Mousa is fascinated by the Swiss mountains.
NK 03816
The enabler: FAC Kreuzlingen head supervisor Till Zeretzke has been campaigning for the artwork for years.
NK 03834
Smartened up by art: Till Zeretzke, who commissioned the mural and Jango Mousa, who painted it.