Activism can come in many forms, including through poetry, music and film. In this video work, Hoda Afshar addresses Australia’s contentious border protection policy and the human rights of asylum seekers. Filmed on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, the work follows a group of stateless men who remained on the island following the closure of the infamous immigration detention centre in October 2017. The centre housed people who had fled other countries and were seeking asylum in Australia. Rather than make a straightforward ‘documentary’ work, Afshar used the language of poetry, performance and song in this work. She says, this ‘forces the viewer to confront their own incomprehension, as well as the very inexplicableness of the situation that these men face’.
One of the stateless men in Afshar’s video is Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish Iranian writer, activist and refugee who spent six years on Manus Island. During this time he published poems and articles online about life in the centre and became a spokesperson for the men in his compound.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees a ‘stateless’ person is someone who is not considered as a national by any state. What does it mean to ‘belong’ to a nationality, and what rights might be denied to stateless persons?