In a heartbreaking video released today made from the drawings of refugee children, Missy Higgins’ new song “Oh Canada” tells the story of Aylan Kurdi, the little refugee boy in the red T-shirt who washed up on a Turkish beach.
A new mother herself, Missy found the image particularly devastating. “From where I sat in my comfortable living room nursing my newborn son, the tiny child in that wrenching image could have been my own little boy. I felt overwhelmed by a profound protective instinct for him and people like him,” Missy told Tone Deaf.
From that place of maternal inspiration, Missy tells the story from the perspective of the sole survivor of the tragic journey, Aylan’s father Abdullah. Abdullah and his family were forced to leave their war-torn hometown of Kobani, Syria, to find a safe place for their family to live. Their aim was Vancouver, Canada, where Abdullah’s sister Teema has lived for more than 20 years. They paid for a boat to take them from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos, when tragedy struck and the boat capsized. Abdullah desperately tried to hold onto his wife and two small children to no avail.
“I wanted to try to write this story from Abdullah’s perspective because ultimately I felt his quest was so relatable,” Higgins told Rip It Up. “I imagined that during that tumultuous boat journey, his heart cried out for Canada to embrace him and his family.”
“Oh Canada simply aims to tell a story,” Missy says. “It’s not preaching anything in particular, it’s simply my attempt to make sense out of senselessness.”
The accompanying video is a powerful visual retelling of the journey, through the hands and eyes of refugee children.
— Junkee (@junkeedotcom) February 18, 2016
Supported by CARITAS and World Vision, the children were asked to “visually express their experiences, their fears, and in some instances, their hopes for the future.” The animation was created out of these drawings under the direction of Natasha Pincus and animation director Nicholas Kallincos.
The title “Oh Canada” refers to the destination of Kurdi’s personal journey, but Canada itself has become a beacon for refugee activists since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came into power and personally welcomed Syrian refugees into the country.
— TorontoStar (@TorontoStar) December 11, 2015
With the haunting lines like, “There’s a million ways to justify your fear, there’s a million ways to measure out your words, but the body of Aylan being laid upon the sand, tell me how do you live with that?”, this song promises to be a tearjerker, and many of the early listeners on Twitter have retweeted the song with a warning that they were “destroyed at work” and to find a “quiet spot”.
— Cal Wilson (@calbo) February 18, 2016
— Peter Lalor (@plalor) February 19, 2016
— Leila (@MsLeila) February 19, 2016
Missy is not afraid of inspiring emotions and says on her Facebook page, “If the song inspires anyone to do something on behalf of refugees – to speak up for their rights and to push back against those who seek to inflame our fears and prejudices – then I think that would be best of all.”
Missy has pledged every last cent of the net proceeds from sales to go to the Australian Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC).
Grab some kleenex and someone to hold you and watch til the very end. The last image is particularly powerful.
[Photograph by Sipan Ibrahim/AP Images]