Australia’s contentious Manus Island offshore processing centre ceased operation in 2017. The following year, amidst local tensions, a group of stateless men seeking asylum in Australia, were forcibly removed from the centre and left to languish on the island, caught between their homelands and an uncertain future. Hoda Afshar’s Remain renders visible their trauma, humanity and resilience.
In the lush tropical ‘paradise’ of the island, away from the noise of politics and power, Afshar focuses her lens to illuminate individual voices suppressed by government policies. One of these voices is award winning refugee journalist, author and human rights advocate Behrouz Boochani who has recently been granted asylum in New Zealand after six years in limbo on Manus Island. ‘I am very happy to have some certainty about my future,’ he told The Guardian newspaper. ‘At the same time, I cannot fully celebrate this because so many people who were incarcerated with me are still struggling to get freedom...’
Pushing at the edges of documentary making for Remain, Afshar worked collaboratively with her subjects, who speak to their shared and collective experiences and amplify their struggles, quiet resistance and dignity through the language of poetry and performance. Juxtaposing stories of loss, boredom, violence and dreams of freedom against the outwardly idyllic environment of the Island, the work draws out the complexity of lived experience to subvert reductive and demeaning tropes about those seeking refuge and asylum in Australia.
Hoda Afshar began her career as a documentary photographer in her birthplace of Iran, moving to Australia in 2007. Through her photography and moving-image work she considers the representation of gender, marginality and displacement employing processes that disrupt traditional image-making practices.
In this video Clare Needham, Bendigo Art Gallery curator talks about Remain in The Burning World.
Short extract of Hoda Afshar's Remain 2018, 2 channel digital video, colour, sound courtesy of the artist.
A conversation with Hoda Afshar about her work and the importance of the collaborative aspect of image-making with Clare Needham, Bendigo Art Gallery curator.
Hoda Afsha shares her thoughts on Remain with NGV.
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