Bound For South Australia: Asylum Seeker Street Art Project

Peter Drew, the Adelaide artist behind the pixel face, convict and STOP THE BOATS posters, recently pasted up a new body of work: copies of images and stories by asylum seekers. One of the contributors, Ali Rezai, has narrated a small documentary, Bound For South Australia – Asylum Seeker Street Art Project.

Peter Drew, the Adelaide artist behind the pixel face, convict and STOP THE BOATS posters, recently pasted up a new body of work: copies of images and stories by asylum seekers. The 36 artworks have been contributed by seven asylum seekers who had fled from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Sri Lanka. One of the contributors, Ali Rezai, has narrated a small documentary, Bound For South Australia: Asylum Seeker Street Art Project, filmed and directed by Frazer Dempsey (Who Owns the Street?). This can be seen below. The 18-year-old Ali now has a bridging visa and lives in Adelaide. He contributed 20 of the 36 works, so his story is the most fully-realised of all the participants’. His story begins at age two, when his mother fled Afghanistan with him. The Taliban killed his father, and seized the family’s home and land. One year ago, Ali was forced to flee again, this time from Pakistan. “I feel very good, I feel proud [that] people are looking at my picture and they are reading my story,” he told the ABC.”Some get upset, some get shocked, some get surprised.”

While the stories reflect the sobering reality of an asylum seeker’s journey, there are bright moments among the harrowing sadness.

Drew explains to the ABC that debate around the issue of asylum seeking is directed by people looking in from the outside, and that the people themselves rarely get a voice. This systemic silence inspired the project.

“You don’t get to hear what asylum seekers actually have to say,” he says. “I wanted to find out about the real stories.” Some of the artists are on bridging visas, while others remain in detention.

Drew has provided a map so you can find all the artworks. As they have been illegally installed, many have already been removed and it is simply a matter of time before more disappear. In the documentary, Drew can be seen pasting up posters while a graffiti removal crew works by his side.

As is the nature of street art, Drew’s work has attracted some controversy over the years. Most recently, the artist was threatened with deportation from Scotland while there for study at the renowned Glasgow School of Art. This project has been completed with help from the Welcome Centre and Circle of Friends. This story originally appeared in Rip It Up.

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