Art in Australia. An exhibition by asylum seekers and refugees by the Refugee Art Project at Still Alive. 4th – 10th August 2014 – Exhibition will be Opened by Julian Morrow 6 – 8PM.
Stanley Street Gallery: 1/52-54 Stanley Street, Darlinghurst 2010.
Stanley Street Gallery in collaboration with the Refugee Art Project is proud to present Still Alive: an exhibition of original artworks by asylum seekers and refugees in the Villawood detention centre and the Western Sydney area. The exhibition will feature over 100 works by up to 20 asylum seekers who have fled countries such as as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Burma. It includes work by children in detention and women from the Refugee Art Project’s Parramatta art workshop.
Many of the artworks in the exhibition were made inside the Villawood detention centre under harsh constraints.
Works include paintings made with instant coffee powder that has been diluted in warm water and then applied to paper. The technique was initiated by an Iraqi refugee who originally had no access to paints and instead reached for whatever was at hand, in this case – instant coffee. He taught the technique to other detainees, who have made dozens of paintings in the medium.
Still Alive will feature the coffee paintings of Mohammad*, a Burmese refugee who was detained in Villawood for over four and a half years—making his one of the longest running cases of indefinite detention.
Mohammad, Freedom, coffee on paper, 29x41cm, 2013.
The exhibition features the work of Tabarak, a 15 year-old girl who has been with her family in detention for over 2 years. During this time, Tabarak has used art as a means of coping with the stress of life in detention, drawing inspiration from Japanese Manga and animation.
Tabarak, The Dancer, colour pencil on paper, 29x41cm, 2013.
‘When I fled my country to come to Australia, it was the first time in my life that I had travelled alone. I arrived in Australia and was full of hope but then they put me in detention and destroyed my hope. I felt like a zoo animal behind a fence with all of Australia on the other side’, says Murtaza Ali Jafari, a young Afghan refugee who spent two years in the Villawood detention centre. ‘But Art was good for my mental health because it kept me busy and prevented me from thinking about other things. It stopped me from having negative thoughts and my future seemed a little brighter.’
Murtaza Ali Jafari, The boat, pen & ink on paper, 21x29cm, 2013.
‘The purpose of the exhibition is to give freedom of expression to asylum seekers and refugees who otherwise have no access to the media or ways of expressing themselves to the Australian public’, says Refugee Art Project Director and art workshop facilitator, Safdar Ahmed. ‘Such work often comments upon the abuses that occur inside our detention centres, including the injustice of locking up women and small children in a harmful and traumatizing environment. But overwhelmingly, the exhibition shows the complex hopes and aspirations of people who have been largely caricaturized and misunderstood in the public mind’.
Visitors to the exhibition will be given guided tours and the option to volunteer in refugee support activities, including visits to the Villawood detention centre. An education kit and information tour will be available for school excursions. All proceeds from the sale of artworks go towards refugee support activities.
* For reasons of privacy, many of those in the exhibition have adopted a pseudonym or their full names are not given.
Julian Morrow – producer, writer and co-founding member of The Chaser will be opening the exhibition – Tuesday 5th August @ 6.30pm.
Video: Art, ingenuity + refugees: Syed Safdar Ahmed at TEDxParramatta.