In 2016, Favela Painting returned to The Netherlands to start our first project back home. The refugee crisis in Europe finds cities in need of new and fast solutions to help create a humane and liveable situation for refugees in their new temporary homes.

In Amsterdam the former ‘Bijlmerbajes’ prison was closed and quickly turned into a temporary refugee living facility. Prisons are not the most welcoming places and the Bijlmerbajes is not different. The Amsterdam Painting project aimed to transform this huge complex with six giant grey towers that have long been an eyesore in Amsterdam’s skyline.

Having previously only worked in established single communities Favelapainting needed to somehow find a way to design and paint a mural that represented this new multi-cultured temporary community. Working collaboratively with locals and newcomers.

The project aimed to transform the buildings, both in-and outside, in order to recreate their new identity as a new home to the refugees. And at the same time offer opportunities in form of skill training, network building and job opportunity, while empowering the participants to ‘make the place their own’.


The first big project of the Amsterdam Painting crew was to extend the entrance design around the front of the building. The crew worked alongside local Amsterdam volunteers and completed the painting in over a month.

Since painting the entrance in the summer of 2016, a steady paint crew emerged which consists of both locals and newcomers. Newcomers face long waiting times and strict limitations while their asylum requests are processed. By designing the project in a way that was open, flexible and inclusive allowed us to reach a diverse group of newcomers with varying needs. Whether newcomers help for one day or multiple months, the goal is for them to take something positive away from their painting experience.


Lola Lik is a cultural HUB located on the south-side of the old Bijlmer Bajes prison focusing on bringing locals and newcomers together to learn off each other. The crew was invited to paint the main inner square and buildings in and around the Lola Lik space. The crew has worked here since late 2016.

“The vibe around here is a lot better since colour has been added to the walls.” David van Dommelen, Operations Manager at Lola Lik


Based at Lola Lik, the Refugee Company connects newcomers to local Dutch companies in order to speed up integration. Our crew has worked collaboratively with them since the very beginning on various projects, including, designing and painting their coffee bar, restaurant, and workspace. If your interested in the Refugee Company and the work they do, you can check out their website here.


Favelapainting was invited to paint a large room of the Stedelijk Museum, based in Amsterdam’s Museum Quarter, as part of the Solution or Utopia Design for Refugees exhibition. The exhibition was displayed across two rooms, one completely dark room and one very light room. We made a design for the light room and used bright colours in the design to represent ‘sunrise after a long cold night’, a sign of hopeful future amongst the current darkness that refugees face on their journeys to safety.


The biggest street art festival in the Netherlands invited the crew to paint an art piece amongst a group of international artists. With removable chalk spray paint they painted an Arabic inspired ‘Welcome Carpet’ representing new beginnings. The many different cultural backgrounds of the paint crew are reflected in the design.


During the Dutch Film Festival in 2016 the crew temporarily moved their workplace to Utrecht’s city center to create a ‘Welcome Carpet’ on the Neude square. This temporary carpet sparked conversation between the residents of Utrecht and the paint crew and left a visually strong message on Utrecht’s main square.


The Vluchtmaat was a grey, boring office building in the south-east of Amsterdam, which accommodates a lively community of 40 Ethiopians and Eritreans. A group organised by the Wij Zijn Hier (We are Here) initiative based in Amsterdam. They support undocumented refugees in finding squated accommodation throughout the city. The Vluchtmaat is unique as they share the property with a handful of local Dutch entrepreneurs who rent an office on the ground floor of the building, which pays for the expenses costs of the entire building.

“The residents were tired of staring at the grey building so they asked Favela Painting to join forces with them to paint the outside.” 

The design process started with a creative workshop in which we explored various colours and patterns that they collectively liked. What was fascinating was almost all of them came up with a design that included a combination of the colours in the Dutch flag, Eritrean flag and Ethiopian flag. This colour combination acknowledged their past, who they were and where they were from, and their future, what they hope to become, a Dutch citizen. After we settled on the design we started painting the building together with the help of the residents and supplies of the neighbouring hardware stores.


Creative workshops were held throughout the whole year in the Bijlmerbajes. The purpose of the workshops was to provide a safe, creative, fun space for newcomers to experiment with different art materials. But also to give newcomers an insight into Favela Painting, and introduce them to the full process involved in painting large-scale outdoor murals. Participants were taught techniques and introduced to materials used to paint large-scale surfaces.

The workshops allowed us to stay actively connected to the transient community. The community of newcomers is constantly changing so on-going workshops ensured us that we stayed connected to the current and new inhabitants. The workshops have been a great way for us to meet new people and a fare share of our current paint crew started with following one of our workshops.

“The workshops are a great way for me to take my mind of things for a moment.”
 Irene from Uganda

Photos by: Allard van der Werf, Betul Elliatioglu, Rob Godfried, Zoalfeqar Mohammad. 

Supported by: AFK, Bankgiroloterijfonds, COA, Gamma, Gemeente Amsterdam, Hemubo, Loenatix, Refugee Company, Talens, The Student Hotel and VSB Fonds