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All Media: Artwork

Using his distinctive graphic novel style, Safdar Ahmed explores the psychological toll detention takes on asylum seekers. Harnessing the creative skills of some of the detainees within the Villawood Detention Centre, he also shows the strategies individuals employ to cope. Highly readable, this is not “just another” detention story but a moving and effective expression of lost lives and suppressed hopes.

Safdar Ahmed is a Sydney-based artist and academic in the field of Islamic studies. He is the author of Reform and Modernity in Islam and the graphic memoir The Good Son. His drawings and comics have appeared in such publications as Overland, Meanjin and The Lifted Brow. Ahmed is a founding member of the community art organisation Refugee Art Project, for which he conducts regular art workshops with asylum seekers and refugees in the Villawood detention centre.

Judges’ comments:

Photos are not permitted within Villawood Detention Centre, so Ahmed has conveyed through his graphic novel style the conditions within the Detention Centre. By using the stories and often the artwork of the asylum seekers, Ahmed has produced a moving documentation of their plight, and a damning condemnation of Australia’s detention system.