We all have a need to create. Whether we are a writer, artist, photographer, musician, decorator, gardener, programmer, cook or athlete, we all feel the joy of seeing something that has come from us. It feeds our soul and lightens our days.
But what if you couldn’t create?
What happens to the writer who is jailed because of his words? What happens to the musician who is shunned by her community because of the style of music she chooses to play? What happens to the artist who is locked away and told “You must do nothing”?
The writer may continue to write in the hope of regime change. The musician may move to another community in the hope of bringing awareness to the restrictions placed on others. But what does the captive do?
A young man held in immigration detention for many years said the worst thing about being locked away was not the lack of freedom of movement or the indignity of security measures but being able to do nothing. With nothing to do, there is only time to think. “You are useless, Mohammad.” “You are worth nothing, Mohammad.”
Last weekend I had the privilege of attending an art exhibition of works by those currently or formerly held in immigration detention in Melbourne. A small band of volunteers had supplied the asylum seekers with art materials and encouraged them to express themselves. The works were amazing and often heartbreaking.
“I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” – Georgia O’Keeffe
My thanks to the artists from the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation centre, the volunteer visitors and Lisa Stewart (originator and curator of the exhibition) for an enlightening and moving event. Thanks also to Elly McDonald for the photos.