Portraits of protest

June 20, 2023
photo exhibition
Activists from the Kangaroo Point protests at the exhibition. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Portraits of Protest: The Kangaroo Point 120
Photographic exhibition, featuring works by Kasun Ubayasiri, in collaboration with Kaya Barry and Ari Balle-Bowness
Meanjin/Brisbane: At the Powerhouse, until July 23

Portraits of Protest: The Kangaroo Point 120 is a photo exhibition on display at the Powerhouse in Meanjin/Brisbane until July 23.

It features photos from the 2020 campaign to free 120 refugees imprisoned in the Kangaroo Point Motel in central Meanjin/Brisbane.

These include photos of the refugees who displayed handmade banners and signs from the balconies of the hotel and of the activists who offered support from the other side of the fence.

It is a story of “a community that rallied around a group of refugees and asylum seekers … as Queensland entered COVID-19 lockdowns”, in the words of the exhibition guide.

“Within days, anti-detention protesters, under the pretext of engaging in permissible exercise, begin walking, cycling and jogging around the motel in support. Their protest grew.”

Photographer Kasun Ubayasiri collaborated with Kaya Barry and Ari Balle-Bowness in creating the exhibition.

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Portraits of protest exhibition
Portraits of protest exhibition. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Ubayasiri is a former Sri Lankan journalist and is currently a documentary photographer in Australia.

He told Green Left that “the Australian government has spent billions of taxpayer dollars to perfect a cruel refugee migration regime designed to break vulnerable people, rather than find a long-term solution to a global refugee crisis based on human rights and compassion”.

Ubayasiri blasted successive Australian governments for “unpicking established humanitarian laws” in relation to refugees and then “hampering independent journalistic coverage of offshore detention camps”. These measures combined to both “shield [refugees’] suffering from the public eye” and make the “political voices of fear and division” more prominent.

Portraits of Protest is a visual representation of those middle-Australians who are reclaiming that narrative and putting their voice on the record,” he said.

The campaign to free the refugees imprisoned at Kangaroo Point was a “pivotal moment in the history of our city,” he said, and stands as a “ray of hope in Australia’s dark legacy of slow-violence against vulnerable people who come to our shores seeking our protection”.

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The ABC's 'Big Ideas' panel on June 15. Photo: Alex Bainbridge
Part of the Big Ideas panel with (left to right) Amin Afravi, Kasun Ubayasiri, Faiza el-Higzi, Kaya Barry

Ubayasiri and Barry appeared on an ABC Big Ideas panel at the Powerhouse on June 15 associated with the exhibition.

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