Refugee art: a way to face up to ugly truths – and possibly change minds30 July, 2016
Exhibitions in Sydney and Melbourne seek to humanise asylum seekers, so they are not viewed exclusively ‘through the lens of their past suffering’
Khadim Ali remembers the day he started to receive death threats. Anonymous callers would ring the young artist in his hometown of Quetta, Pakistan. “You are the infidel Shia,” they said. “You are the infidel artist.”
“It was then I decided to leave Pakistan and find a safer place for myself,” says Ali. “Because of my ethnicity I was a constant target.”
In 2009 Ali – who has been collected by the likes of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Guggenheim – moved to Australia permanently on a distinguished talent visa. His mother and father, exiled Hazaras whose own parents fled bloody persecution in Afghanistan in the 1890s, joined him as refugees in 2012. Their house in Quetta old town had been bombed in a car suicide attack that left them seriously injured, their home destroyed, and 14 dead.
“I feel like we have a new life, a better and peaceful life here,” says Ali, 38. “My parents are not concerned about me leaving home in the morning.”