Remain by Hoda Afshar
Hoda Afshar’s portraits of asylum seekers incarcerated on Manus Island may be familiar. Her shot of Behrouz Boochani, the Iranian journalist and award-winning author of No Friend But the Mountains, won the 2018 Bowness photography prize. And if your commute takes you past The Substation in Newport, they’ll soon be even more familiar. This exhibition of six of Afshar’s images takes place on the 2.4-metre-high billboards outside it, right by the train tracks.
The portrait of Boochani captures a gaunt, ghostly figure standing in front of an open flame. Boochani wrote in The Saturday Paper in November that the image scares him. “I do not see myself in this picture,” he said. “I only see a refugee, someone whose identity has been taken from him. Just bare life, standing beyond the borders of Australia, waiting and staring.”
Other refugees pose with other elements: Emad’s features are obscured by falling dirt; Ari braces himself as water is poured over his head. With the federal election looming, these billboards provide powerful illustrations of the legacies of both major parties’ policies.