A still life is both a life that has been arbitrarily arrested, and a life that is settled, at home. For a stateless person, life is stasis and frustrated potential. At the same time, the lack of citizenship can push people to ceaseless migration in search of a home—a place in which to settle and belong.
In this series, five people now in Australia and New Zealand tell about their lives. You will meet two men who have spent more than seven years in immigration detention—Abbas, a Faili Kurd who remains in detention, and Khan Safdari, a Hazara man from Afghanistan, via many places, who has recently been released. You will also meet Jasmin, a Palestinian woman now living in Sydney with her children, and two Rohingya women, Aziyah in Brisbane and Hafsar in Auckland.
They spoke with André Dao, Michael Green and Nicole Curby. In response, and in consultation with the storytellers, artist Sarah Walker has photographed a series of objects drawn from their stories. These objects represent each teller’s idea of home, coalesced into a still life image whose edges and forms are as enigmatic and irretrievable as the notion of belonging.
I entered Australia at Sydney Airport, that was 7 October 2011. From the beginning, it was very hard. This is not just me saying it … the world knows that the Australian immigration process is very tough.
You know, in 2019 especially, I was very sad. When I was very young, I was a boy that never cried. I will get angry, I will fight, but not cry. But what happened in 2019, I lost my hope. I’m saying, What to do? These guys they want to keep me here until I die.
Then I was singing some songs I know from a long time ago, from childhood. Sad songs about life, Indian songs. I was singing those songs to myself oh so many times, that it’s now too much. So I was looking on the internet for more songs that I can learn, songs that are going to touch my heart, that are going to give me the feeling there’s someone here with me.
Then I saw Rumi’s poem. I said, Oh, this guy is from my country, such a famous person. And the poem, this is something like a song. As I was finding his poems, I’m thinking, He has written it for me. Or he knows what is going to happen to people like me. These poems are hundreds of years old.
I was writing a lot of letters to the minister: Hey it’s me, my name is Khan Safdari, you keep me for a long time. You’re saying, ‘I don’t know you.’ This is me. This is my father. This is my uncle. This is my mum. Everything. What I have, I’m showing you. But they don’t reply. Sometimes just I think to kill myself because I’m suffering to die here. But some poems I read, they give me hope. The poems, they sing for me. Like someone knows about these things. This is my favourite one, it is called ‘The Tavern’. I have it here, I’m going to put it into the app to read for me, yeah?
[Electronic voice] All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from?
[Khan, repeating] …Where did I come from?
[Electronic voice] And what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea.
[Khan] … I have no idea.
[Electronic voice] My soul is from elsewhere. I’m sure of that. And I intend to end up there. This drunkenness began in some other tavern. When I get back around to that place, I’ll be completely sober. Meanwhile, I’m like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary. The day is coming when I fly off. But who is it now in my ear, who hears my voice? Who says words with my mouth?
[Khan] … Who says words with my mouth?
I was writing letters because the detention centre was very violent. In 2017 I got beaten up by three prisoners, without any issue, without any reason. They were not refugees, they were people who lived all their life in Australia but they don’t have citizenship. I was not the first guy or the last guy—so many other refugees, they get beaten up by these people. I got serious injuries. I’m suffering from my eye, I have double vision, I have tinnitus problems. Really I was sick. Just I know that I’m still alive, but I have pain everywhere.
I cannot really speak English or I cannot write English, but from that time March 2017 when we were allowed to have smart phones, just I was focused to learn. From the smart phone I learned to type, I learned to speak, I learned to write. When I learned how to write, just a little, I was thinking that before I die, I must write myself by my own words. I’m writing letters, trying to explain to the minister, or anyone—the Australians—Look, you must know who I was, and what was my story that I’ve been telling you for years and years. You know? You know that I’m Afghani, you know that I’m Hazara, and you know that I’m a stateless person. I was writing at that time in my letters that I’m the King of the Refugees.
I think I was born during 1990, or maybe maximum 1992, because when I left Afghanistan that was 1996 and I was maybe four or five or six years old. I have my picture with me. We decided to leave Kabul and go to Pakistan, because that was war time, when we lost everything back home. I was not registered at all, and from that time until now I’m just running looking for protection.
When I was young, when I was back in Pakistan, maybe ten years old, I was buying postcards—Schwarzenegger postcards, Rambo postcards, Bollywood heroes. I’m putting them on my wall. And then I bought one picture that was the Opera House with the Sydney Bridge and I didn’t know where it was. I didn’t know at all about maps, or where Australia is located, or Europe or America. But I would just love one day to see this place from my own eye.
After that, when I lived a couple more years in Pakistan, then I was going looking for protection and a better country. From Pakistan to Iran, from Iran to Turkey, from Turkey to Greece. And from Greece, oh, you know, inside the trucks, the trucks going inside the ship and I went to Italy. And I don’t know really where to go. I’m thinking, I need a place to be accepted. I’m facing trouble until now—the misery life. I’m going on 15, 16 years that I’m looking for protection.
A couple of days ago I got a call from my case manager and he said to me, ‘You got a bridging visa and you just pack your stuff and we’re going to release you.’ But I was thinking, Ah it’s not going to happen, it’s going to be something. Because you know, I have totally lost trust in these people, what they say. But finally, when I went there, he gave me all the papers to sign and when I was released, when I’m walking on the street, I was like drunk, you know? I’m thinking maybe I’m going to fall down.
I called my mum, she was just crying, and ah, I was on the video. So I’m talking, I say a couple of words and she is crying and saying, Thanks God, and, I love you, my sweetheart. I worry about her, just I love her. She is getting older. And yeah, so, this is my dream—to look after her. I don’t know how … as soon as possible I’m going to be … yeah … I have a bridging visa for only six months. This is such a thing, after so many years, since 2011, that I damage my health, that I now have double vision, that I have too many problems. I hope that I’m going to get a proper visa.
One day, I will be a person that I’m going to be good for this community. I can do things here. Maybe I’m going to save someone’s life, or I’m going to save an animal’s life. One day I’m going to be proud, and my friends who were supporting me for a long time, they will be proud.
When I was released my friend called me, he is an Irani guy, he took us to the city. We were going to the Opera House but we had a problem with the parking—my friend was saying that it’s very expensive. He parked the car somewhere and after that we were just walking, all night we walked. We didn’t sleep. We caught the train, we went from Central to Bondi, we went to see the beach. And walking, walking. We were watching people: people who are drunk, people who are laughing, people who are not at all in this mind of the detention centre.
Deep down inside me I know that I belong to Myanmar, I was from that country. And I am from that country whether they recognise me or they don’t recognise me. But I can’t go back right now. I think I am slowly starting to settle down, but it’s gonna take me a while. I’m still adjusting. If I had my own house in New Zealand, you know what I would love? A reading corner in my home, and little book shelves in my reading corner. And my teapot, all the time, and my coffee—oh, I am a caffeine person. And my garden. Just to have the kind of sense that I used to have when I was a child.
When I was little, I loved to read comics. My father made for me a bookshelf with bamboo, the bookshelf at the corner in the living room, because he knows that I love the books. Whatever books I could find, I always put them in order. When I became a teenager, I loved to read the stories of people. I wanted to know the story of the people from other parts of the world because I was very curious to know—what are the things that are out there?
I used to tell my parents, ‘Oh one day I’m going to travel the world.’ And they would always laugh at me, they would be like, ‘We can’t even travel from one township to another township, my dear, but I hope you can travel one day!’ And I always told them: ‘You know what? One day I’m going to be speaking English so well and I will even be speaking at events and you might probably see me on TV.’ They’d be like, ‘Are you insane?’
My favourite author was Shakespeare, Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet. My English was not that good, but I still loved to read English novels. I still looked for books wherever I can find them—from the library, from the roadside bookshop. Just to read one page, it took me forever because I need to keep looking in the dictionary. We don’t have electricity so I have my little candle that I stole from my mother, because she doesn’t want me to stay awake. But I like to read in a quiet place with my little candle.
There was one particular novel that I loved. George Orwell, he wrote Animal Farm. I couldn’t understand very well, but he was making it look and sound ridiculous, how politicians are making things so hard for the people. When I think of it now, it’s a powerful book. I didn’t even see myself as stateless, because I didn’t know the term for that. When I was out of the country, I started to become familiar with the terms: statelessness, refugees, asylum seekers. Everything is happening because of all these policies and systems. That’s how I remember the books—about how the people suffered in the past because of all the systems. And it’s still going on in this moment, in this civilised world.
I was in Thailand two years hiding, I didn’t have any documents. Then I’m in Malaysia, just working and working every single day. I spent eight years there. If I had the right to go to school I could have even completed my PhD. I had that little UNHCR card, a refugee card. But that card didn’t give me the right to have a licence, the right to work, to own a vehicle, or to continue my education.
I always sent emails to UNHCR Malaysia, always requesting them to send me to Australia, because I have some relatives from my mother’s side. They always tell me the Australian government is not taking any more Rohingya refugees since 2012 or 2013. But I remember that still some Rohingyas from Malaysia were taking that risky journey. The boat journey to Australia and some people made it, some people were just arrested somewhere in the sea.
I honestly couldn’t understand why Australia has changed their policy of taking Rohingya refugees, and it’s not only Australia. If you refuse to take these most persecuted minorities in the world … I don’t understand. I feel like there are no places I can go.
It’s just all messed up in my head. I just started to feel like I don’t have any reason to live. I just didn’t sleep, I don’t know, for two weeks. In Malaysia I was renting a room at my friend’s apartment and most of the time I spent in that little room. I shut down all the lights. Even in the daytime I close all the curtains because I just want to be in the dark in the corner by myself. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want people to come and bother me, even knock on my door and ask me, ‘Have you eaten?’
The only way out of all these stresses—I write journals. So I always have my pens and journals and all these sticky notes on my wall, just at the bedside. I was trying to encourage myself and I was looking for quotes like, ‘At the end of the darkest moment of your life, you will see the light.’ Yeah, maybe. ‘You will survive. You are the survivor.’
I wrote letters to my family, and then I just kept them. There are things that I don’t want them to know. When they read the letter all they will feel is heartbroken for not being there for you. They already have a lot of things that they are going through every single day. It’s not that you don’t love them anymore. It’s just you are undeniably becoming a different version of you, after you go through all those psychological challenges, and you just don’t know how to talk to them.
I feel like now I have more responsibilities than when I was in Malaysia. Now I have a better legal status and I feel I am obliged to do as much as I can because I cannot forget about those people stuck in no man’s land in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. I have this warm bed and warm food on my table. They don’t have it. When there is heavy rain everything is flushed away. No food, no medication. All of this. More than 30,000 kids who have lost their parents, orphans in the Bangladesh camps. What kind of life are they living right now? The girls who have been sexually assaulted, the women who have been sexually assaulted, who are having the babies of the rapists in the camp. And the girls who are still being adopted from the camp and being sold to the brothels. I can’t stop thinking about them.
It has been more than a decade I am away from my country, from the place where I was born. Whenever I lie down to fall asleep, I remember everything—the house that I grew up in, the village. The houses are made of bamboo and the roofs are made with the leaves of coconut trees. The chickens in the yard. And how we pluck the mangoes from our mango trees. And I remember that when we were young, we just ran to the rain.
I’m not trying to remember, honestly. It just comes. It is not something you want to remember, knowing that you can’t be there. It’s an earthy smell, the smell of the ground when it suddenly rains after a very hot day. I’ve been in different countries—I’ve been in Thailand, I’ve been in Malaysia and now I’m in New Zealand. I have even travelled to other parts of the world for some conferences. But that smell of the earth when I was in my country, it’s very particular.
I only put focus on my present, because if something doesn’t happen like I imagine, it’s going to be sad for me. But if I draw an image in my mind, the background is dark and in the middle there is a lightbulb. There is a girl standing, looking at the light, and I can only see her back. And in the light I would draw a calculator, a bar chart, a green plus sign, and minus—the things that relate to being an accountant. A red question mark. Even accountants, sometimes you won’t get the answer straightaway. You won’t get a solution.
In some other Rohingya families, the parent doesn’t allow girls to go to school, but not my family. They say education is important for us, for the next generation. In primary school in Yangon, sometimes I got a prize—so my parents think I can be the one. My siblings have to do hard work, to support the family financially and so they couldn’t give time for education. But they didn’t let me do any hard work.
When I was in Grade Four, whenever I got a high mark, oh that teacher didn’t give me the high mark. Always she put me behind my classmates. I knew that all the answers are right. I’m with my friend and we always checked answers after we finish exam. I checked with my textbook—exactly the same. Grade Four, yeah, it’s horrible for me. I was 10 years old. I couldn’t have a chance to go to high school.
My grandparents, they grew up in Burma, they were born in Burma. So that is our country. When we were in Burma, we knew that we have to die there without having anything. We were born, we grew up, and now we die. So we didn’t have any chance. We didn’t have any kind of ID. It is sad. And now we are safe but we don’t have any chance to go visit my father’s grave.
Whatever bad things happen to us we just think our God is testing us; we can cope or not. So we just think about that. Like one day we will be … everything will be fine. Only one hope. So yeah, we are happy, we don’t blame God. Whenever we pray and then we read the Qur’an, it gives me peace and I forgive people.
My dad, he was attacked by the military and then after a few weeks, he had to go to the hospital and he never came back. We couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t tell police or they’re going to ask for our identification. If we don’t have it, they will easily know we are Rohingya. We are not allowed to live there; we have no idea what they’re going to do to us if they find out. That time when my father died, my brother was already working in Malaysia. And then there are no men in the family in Yangon. So my brother said it is not safe for us and he organised everything, took us to Australia.
I’ve got a lot of family members. When I was in Malaysia, I imagined Australia, a good life, with education and knowledge, a house with a car. I just made it up. At first, when we came here, there were 13 of us, we came all on the same boat. Now, some of my nieces and nephews were born in Australia, but they are on the same visa as the rest of us, a five-year visa. My next visa is going to be similar to my current visa.
I’ve finished my diploma of accounting. I am hoping I can get a degree because I want to be the first person to be educated in my family. I like maths, I don’t like theory stuff, I like only practical things. I’m hoping to continue to uni with commerce, major in accounting and finance. I got an offer, full fee, like $38,500 for one year—it is so high. Different unis have different fees; some unis are cheaper, but I must study in a regional area to get a new visa. I have to follow the visa to be eligible. There is a scholarship for the asylum seeker people also, so I’m trying to apply for that, but they only give three.
I flew all the way from my home to Australia 36 weeks pregnant. They said you need to stay, you can’t travel with your big belly. But I just took my own decision, and I prepared my luggage. And I said to my husband, I am coming with you. No chance for you to go without me. Even if they will not allow me to go through the border or the gate at the airport, I will still be coming with you.
We’re not allowed to travel or use the airport in Tel Aviv. So we took a taxi from my home town, from Jenin to Jericho, then Allenby Bridge, we had to go through three checkpoints. It took us almost a whole day, just trying to go through these borders.
I never thought about myself because I already lived my life, so maybe I can handle the situation there. But my kids, I’m only thinking about them, how they will live. I don’t want them to see their dad in a bad situation, like I saw my dad. They forced him to take off his clothes in front of us, and they put him in the street in the cold weather with my brothers, with my uncles, with all the people around. I saw this picture, I will never forget this.
I was very worried, but I didn’t show anyone. I just kept my worries inside my mind. I couldn’t think of anything. I just wanted to sleep. I almost couldn’t stand on my feet at the airport here in Sydney.
My daughter’s birth, in the Royal Hospital for Women, Sydney, there’s a question, Where are you originally from? Your country of birth? But they couldn’t find Palestine. We could find any country except my country. I found out they put that I’m from Iran, they just picked any country.
Any Palestinian born outside Palestine can’t be issued a Palestinian passport. I applied for my children’s citizenship in Australia, I applied for them as stateless kids born here. I was thinking, If they don’t give them citizenship what will happen, they will not have any identity?
I feel very bad. I feel, why? Why? There is a real people, there is a real land that exists in this world, but we don’t have space,
even in the atlas.
Home? I can see tomato plants, cucumber, capsicum, eggplants. Small farm, little kids playing around, and some chickens. I miss these things. We used to have the chickens just living in the whole farm and laying eggs anywhere. It was like I won the lottery if I found eggs before my brothers.
My mum, she likes to turn on the radio from when she wakes up until she finishes lunch. She likes to hear—not the news—but a famous singer, Fayrouz. Fayrouz in the morning, make you in a good mood, and you just want to clean the dishes, prepare breakfast, and you feel happy.
Her radio is something really essential to be in the kitchen. Her voice calling everyone ‘wake up and tidy your bed’ and I can hear her preparing the breakfast, boiling eggs.
Sometimes I feel like I need to hear these voices. When I hear the songs, I just—everything comes to my mind, my life in my parents’ house. It’s a little bit of relief. And when I hear my mum’s voice, when I call her, I feel like okay, I can handle maybe another one year or two years, then I can go and visit them. I stay strong when I hear her voice.
My dad and my mum spent all day from sunrise to sunset, picking olives from the trees. They came home, I used to hug my mum, like oh I miss you, like silly kids, and I could smell her smell. Her smell is like olive oil, like the olive tree. All day working, their clothes and their hands dirty, everything, but I like their smell. And when you smell the olive oil, you smell the tree, the land, I smell my parents in the olive oil. To have big trees like this, my dad used to say, this is proof that we belong to this land, no-one else. It’s like our ID, to see a very old tree on your land.
When I came to Australia I felt guilty. This land belongs to one people. We know them, they’re Aboriginal people. I feel like I stole the land from Aboriginal people. It’s the same what happened in my country, so I feel guilty. They came from everywhere to live in Israel. And I did the same. I came to Australia and live on their land without their permission. Always thinking, why. Why I did the same?
When Australia approved the application and they gave my children citizenship that made me believe more and more that we are stateless. Because they approve the application and gave them citizenship that means they see us as stateless.
I feel bad and good in the same way. I feel that’s my country, they tried to remove my identity from the world. And I feel good that it helps us to get a good life, a good opportunity to stay in Australia for my kids. You exist, you are human, but your country of birth doesn’t exist. They didn’t recognise you as Palestinian. So you are maybe nothing, or somewhere else, but not Palestine.
I want them to go there, to visit their family, to see Palestine, not just from pictures or the stories I’m telling them. I want them to go and help their grandfather with his farm and see the chickens and play. I need them to mix the place with their feelings. I need them to know that they have family there, they belong there too, not just here.
I love Australia. They give us the basic rights we couldn’t find in my country. But still, half of me wants … something inside me wants my life back again.
In 2014, Immigration, IHMS and Serco make a meeting with me. They say, ‘Abbas, we read your story. How is it possible you were five years old go to jail?’ I say, ‘Why were you surprised? When I go to jail it was 1982, in a country where the leader, he never say, “I have human rights, I have freedom, I have democracy.” Now, in 2014, kids on Nauru. Do you think on Nauru they live in hotel and paradise? They live in jail. Why were you surprised?’ They say nothing.
Every night when I sleep, I pray. I say, ‘God, please. When I sleep please don’t open my eyes.’ I be honest because I can’t take the pain. Like you have car, take it to the mechanic service every couple months. Change your water. Change your oil. If not, your car after one, two years—fucked. I feel like that car, with that old tyre, with that old oil, with that old water. No mechanic seen me for many, many years. Of course, I’m tired.
In 1981 when they transferred us from Basra jail to Baghdad jail, one army officer smashed me and my mum a lot. Another one washed my face and gave me a bucket of milk. He said, ‘Son, don’t worry. This will be finished one day.’ But since 1981, not finished. Follows me. Wherever I’m going, it follows me. You think I like my life?
In Iraq we have two different people: number one citizen—the original citizen, and number two—not citizen.1 I can never forgive my great-grandfather for what he did. He was scared his kids be sent to army so he didn’t get the original citizenship. Many, many years ago was nothing named border, especially in the Middle East, especially between Iraq and Iran. My mum, she had original citizenship. But in Iraq kids follow father, not follow mother.
In Baghdad jail the security manager say to my mum, ‘You can stay in Iraq, but your husband, no.’ And my mum ask, ‘What happen to my kids?’ And he say, ‘They follow the father.’ She say, ‘Then I go with them.’ And they pulled the piece of paper in front of her and she signed to cancel her citizenship.
Naser was with me in Baghdad jail. I was about five years old. We was playing together in the jail. And we were deported to Iran detention same time with our families, like many other Faili Kurds. I was in detention in Iran 11, 13 years. I can’t remember exactly. I think Naser and his family they were released one year before us. They go to Tehran and when my family released, we go to Isfahan.
After long time, I meet Naser again in Jakarta. One day we were in the boat trying to get to Australia. I tell him, ‘Naser, let’s put our backgrounds, what happened to us, put it in the ocean and we start new life.’ We imagine that and doing that. When the navy came, took us from the ocean, we thought something wrong. But we still have hope. Then we arrived on Christmas Island. I told him, ‘Naser, again fence.’ He told me, ‘Abbas, again number, again jail.’ We were shocked. We know we come into detention centre, but not like this. It bring me back to Basra jail, to Iran detention centre. All the same.
Only one week after we arrived on Christmas Island I slipped and my knee turned. All the tendons fucked. For that they didn’t send me to Nauru. In 2018, Naser won his case from Nauru to the US. I told my mum. Believe me, she was happy like I got a visa. Because we are family. In jail and detention, he was calling my mum, Mum. I was calling his mum, Mum. Unfortunately, he’s still on Nauru. More than two years now. Just they say wait, wait.
When I speak with my family, I don’t have any news. We talk only short time. My mum after, ‘Hello,’ she says, ‘How are you? What happened this morning?’ I tell her, ‘Mum, please stop.’ Because once I told her, ‘Mum, I’m all right. I’m fine. I’m okay,’ and she say, ‘Abbas, I been in jail for many, many years. How will you be okay in jail?’
I have an idea how to live in jail, but I’m scared of outside because I have no idea how to live. I’m 43 years old. So many years of my life, I live in jail or detention. Oh, many people they call me from community. I ask them, ‘Can you explain for me what is freedom?’
I first heard the word stateless here in Australia. It was one night, I think in 2015. It’s Irish guy. I was telling him what’s happened and who I am, he said, ‘You are stateless.’ I was surprised. What does it mean, stateless? He found it in the dictionary for me.
It was true. And to me it’s like kids, when they have no father, no mother. In an orphanage. When they have no-one protect them. No-one hug them. No-one be kind with them. For me, stateless is like that.
You can’t live in the home without roof. You can’t. How you protect yourself or your family without roof? How you protect them from sun, from cold weather, from rain, from snow? Citizenship for me it’s like roof. It would protect me. To be honest, I can’t imagine myself a citizen.
Look, you have citizenship, belong in one country. When you’re travelling in another country, just you show your ID card, passport. You think I like it, travelling illegally? No way. Put myself in the dangerous, the very small, old boat and coming to Australia? If I have that piece of paper, I sit in the plane and coming. But I have no choice.
You have choice. Look how different, when you have citizenship, when you have that paper. Only paper.
You know last night, a new person, he told me, ‘Abbas, how can you stay here more than six years?’ He is from New Zealand. I say to him, ‘You have citizenship somewhere. You can go. You think if I have choice, I stay here?’ I can’t stay and I can’t go anywhere. I tell immigration many times, send me even to Somalia. Just send me, I can’t stay in jail. I’ve been in Iran jail. I’ve been in Iraq jail. I’ve been in Indonesia jail. I’ve been in Australia jail. How long jail? Just because I don’t have citizenship.
In June 2016 some people from the community come to visit. I saw Fiona there and she was so beautiful. All the time I put my eyes on her and just look at her. And when the visit finished she asked about my email address and I gave it to her. We got closer since the Australian Open tennis in 2017. It was Nadal and Federer. We made a bet. My favourite player, Nadal. My mum’s favourite player is Nadal. I bet on Nadal and Federer won, so I lose. But I win [laughs]. The bet we made, no-one lose [laughs]. We get close from that time.
I think about going to live somewhere next to water and make a fire, and listen to the water, how it moves. I like to be like the water, like a river. You see in a city, where the river comes in the middle? People enjoy it because water brings life, brings happiness, brings beauty. And when I listen to water, I feel like it polish my heart, polish my pain. I feel how the water moves. Like it take my pain slowly slowly, take my sadness and with new water coming, it brings me some hope, some happiness.
But unfortunately now I feel like water when stuck in the one place for long time. How it smell? Disgusting. How dirty, the colour? No-one can use it. I feel like that water. What are my first memories of water? Oh, long time ago when I was in Iran detention. We was kids and escaped all the time through the fence. We was swimming there, very small river. We escaped in the morning and came back in the afternoon. And many times we got punished for that, from the army security working there.
My relationship with Fiona means a lot for me. It’s like you lose your way in the darkness, and someone comes in with light from far away and pulls your hand when you are injured, when you’re weak and you can’t walk any more. We talk every day. Like yesterday, we talked for five hours.
One time, when I lose in the court, we talk for long time and make a country where I can be citizen. We call it Love-istan, next door is Free-istan. It make us feel better.
My mum had a lot of chickens in detention. Many times, I hold some of them, sit with them. I talk to them about going to live in the jungle. No humans, just animals. I never scared because I believe animals are not dangerous, humans are dangerous. When I was imagining that, it’s helping me, taking me away from detention. Like Fiona. She take me away from detention.
‘Still Life’ was produced by André Dao, Michael Green, Nicole Curby and Sarah Walker. The project is part of ‘Voices of Statelessness’, a collaboration between Behind the Wire and the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness at the Melbourne Law School. Research work on ‘Voices of Statelessness’ was led by Timnah Baker, with support from Associate Professor Jennifer Balint and Dr Ashley Barnwell from the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, and from Professor Michelle Foster and Dr Christoph Sperfeldt at the Centre on Statelessness. The project was supported by the University of Melbourne’s Statelessness Hallmark Research Initiative Seed Funding Scheme and a University of Melbourne Engagement grant. Behind the Wire received additional support from a Creative Victoria development grant.