Exhibition marks SIEV-X tragedy, ten years on

A powerful art exhibition took place in Brisbane over October 15-23, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the SIEV-X tragedy on October 19, 2001, in which 353 asylum seekers, including 146 children, drowned when their fishing boat sank between Indonesia and Australia.

The exhibition featured the works of Melbourne-based artist Kate Durham, under the title, "SIEV-X — and some were saved". It included a supporting exhibition of paintings by artists from refugee communities who came to Australia by boat, titled “Floating”.

“Floating” includes striking works by artists from the Afghan Hazara community, and former refugees from Vietnam, Iran and Iraq. Hazara community leader Hassan Ghulam initiated the exhibition.

The twin exhibitions were shown at The Studio, State Library of Queensland, and launched on October 15 by prominent refugee rights lawyer Julian Burnside. Together, they presented a tragic and moving, but beautiful account of the lives and deaths of people who fled oppression, only to face terrible challenges.

In the exhibition notes, Durham said: “The paintings of the SIEV-X were intended to depict a tragic and historic event that no cameras could record. We lack the ability to envisage or empathise with events that we merely hear about. Since the advent of photography we expect to see visual imagery. Without it we seem not to feel or believe."

Referring to the survivors of SIEV-X and of the many other perilous boat journeys by asylum seekers to this country, she said: "Australia is now their home. If all Australians could know them, perhaps we could make them more welcome."

[For more information, visit katedurham.com.]

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