ACT News

Hope and pain on show in asylum seekers' art of home

There are haunting anonymous three-dimensional faces, a black painting of a man in a cell with white light streaming in from a small barred window, and a stunning multicoloured landscape of a country left behind.

These images are among the artworks produced by asylum seekers living in Australia which form the unique exhibition Home: between here and there, which opened in Barton on Friday night.

Asylum seeker Hayder in front of his artwork, "Memories", at the opening of the "Home: between here and there" ...
Asylum seeker Hayder in front of his artwork, "Memories", at the opening of the "Home: between here and there" exhibition on Friday night.  Photo: Jay Cronan

The eight artworks explore the experience of displacement and exile, the homeland left behind, and the unfinished journey to a new place to call home.

Hayder, 32, a qualified artist and teacher who fled the conflict in Iraq, said his artwork, titled Memories, gave him a sense of relaxation as it looked both to the past and the future.

"My memories started in 1984, when I was born, so I have a [$1] coin from then, and I left all of this space for the future, which I count as memories because I am always thinking about it," he said.

The piece also included material which was used by the family to sit on in Iraq.

The University of Baghdad graduate, one of six of the artists who travelled from Sydney for the opening, has lived in Australia for three years and is still waiting on a decision on his refugee application.

Settlement Services International's arts and culture program co-ordinator Carolina Triana said the works were prepared as part of a 10-week professional development program where the eight asylum seekers were mentored by Iraqi-born artist Abbas Makrab.

"They have made new friends, networked with different people in the arts, and their confidence has also dramatically improved, their English has improved and their overall wellbeing," she said.

"Some of them were artists back in their country of origin, some of them were self-taught, but there are many from other backgrounds."

The pieces were displayed in a Sydney arts centre and then in Newcastle last year. They include use of clay, materials and photography as well as traditional oil paintings.

The exhibition is on display at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture until March 4.

Centre executive director Reverend Professor Stephen Pickard, launching the display on Friday night, said the art had the potential to help "reset our moral compass" in Australia on the treatment of asylum seekers.

For details of the exhibition check the centre's website.