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Art brings hope to detention centre fear

Lee Rhiannon 8 Jul 2011

Blog post by Senator Lee Rhiannon

If you are in Sydney today and have not yet seen the Fear+Hope Refugee Art Exhibition, I hope you can get to the Mori Gallery.  The show, an initiative of the Refugee Art Project, closes at 5pm today.

The Gallery is at 168 Day Street, Sydney, just around the corner from Bathurst Street and about five minutes from Town Hall Station and entry is free.

Six months ago this exhibition was a dream of Dr Omid Tofighian and a few of his colleagues. What they have achieved is so positive, bringing humanity and decency to an issue that is being so appalling handled by both the federal government and opposition.

However, I have to say that the Fear+Hope Exhibition is painful. Many of the images are shocking. But the strength of the human spirit is the essence of this art work. 

View the images here.  The exhibition which has been open for the past three weeks has pulled in record crowds, averaging about 100 each day.  Steve Mori, the Gallery Director, just told me that more than 200 people viewed the work of the 20 artists yesterday. Steve also mentioned there have been large quantities of art materials donated for the use of the artists.

The art works range from multi-media to oil and acrylic paintings. Some of the refugees have exhibited photography and computer art work. The artists, who include children, come from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Iran, the Kurdish regions of the Middle East, Pakistan, Nigeria and Indonesia.

The Refugee Art Project that organised this event deserves the warmest congratulations.  The Project is a small collective of academics and artists united by a shared concern for the plight of refugees to Australia. They organise regular art classes for asylum seekers at Sydney’s Villawood detention centre and for those who have been recently released, and also supply art materials to refugees in other centres.

This Project supports people living under mental anguish who live with constant fear and uncertainty about their future.

This is how the Project explains the importance of art in relation to issues of human rights and refugee advocacy: “The function of art cannot be separated from the question of human rights and claims to human dignity. Insofar as art touches upon universal human themes and is historically integral to experiences of freedom, it is important for an open and democratic society.”

You can read more about the Project here  and the opening night here. I hope you can see this exhibition.

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