June 10, 2014
Sketches drawn by asylum seekers in detention and on bridging visas have been turned into posters and stuck on the walls of Adelaide buildings.
Authorities already have removed some but street artist Peter Drew says that will not stop his project.
Drew has pasted his message in dozens of public places in the CBD.
“One of the things that turns me off about the debate is so much of it is people who aren’t asylum seekers talking about the issue,” he said.
“You don’t get to hear what asylum seekers actually have to say, I wanted to find out about the real stories.”
Some of the posters are just happy memories from home so it’s not so politicised in that way, some are harrowing though, the traumatic stories of why they had to leave home and their journey coming into Australia and what it was like in detention.Street artist Peter Drew
Drew asked seven people in detention and on bridging visas to relate their stories as art.
Each of their sketches has been blown up to several times its original size and the posters of 4.5 by 2.5 metres are hard to miss.
“Some of the posters are just happy memories from home so it’s not so politicised in that way, some are harrowing though, the traumatic stories of why they had to leave home and their journey coming into Australia and what it was like in detention,” Drew said.
“I think it’s sort of an issue of public interest and when I see the work up and people read it and really begin to empathise, I meant that’s exactly what I wanted.”
Passers-by have agreed the message is being noticed.
“It’s very emotional, but I think it’s an issue we talk about so much in the news and we see the hype in the parliaments but this is the very human face of it,” one said.
“It’s beautiful, my eyes are drawn to that picture initially, reading that story, I’m so glad it’s out in the public space because people need to read this,” another said.
One of the posters is an image of Ali Reza Mohammad’s mother crying.
The teenage asylum seeker, whose father was killed by the Taliban, fled violence in Pakistan a year ago in search of a better life.
“The picture is like the day when I left my mum,” he said.
“The mums are not happy to send their kids away from them but they have to, they’re helpless and hopeless.”
Ali Reza Mohammad learnt some English and drawing skills while in detention.
He now is on a bridging visa and trying to put the sadness behind him.
“I feel very good, I feel proud [that] people are looking at my picture and they are reading my story,” he said.
“Some get upset, some get shocked, some get surprised.”
Peter Drew has not sought permission from Adelaide City Council or property owners to put his message on walls across the CBD and at least six posters have been removed.
But that is the way of the young street artist, who was threatened with deportation from Glasgow for installing street art illegally there.
He also has been arrested for graffiti vandalism in Adelaide.
“I’ve deliberately selected some spots where they’ll stay up for months, but [in] other busy spots they’ll probably be removed in a couple of weeks,” he said.
Adelaide City Council said in a statement:
“We haven’t sought to remove the posters but, without a relevant permit, it’s possible cleaning crews may have taken some down.
“We’re meeting with the artist this week to discuss what to do about any remaining works.”
Drew says he knows the risks of his approach but it is worthwhile.
“We honour and remember the Anzacs and our colonial past and here we are with this contemporary example in a way which we can’t understand, but it relates so much to how our ancestors came here and the courage and sacrifice they displayed,” he said.