The Art of Adam Janali
"I am a refugee and I have an temporary protection visa. I am not a citizen, but I do have my human rights. Australians don't look at me like I am a refugee, no, because I am human and I have rights. I can't vote because I am not Australian, but I have other rights as Australians do. I can study, I can do my paintings."
"In Afghanistan, it's a little bit different because painting is not allowed, they believe it's God's job. When I paint the shape of a human, it's God's job because I have to give it a soul. When I cannot give the painting or the drawing a soul, it's like I enter myself into God's job, so it's not allowed. But here, it's like a job, a duty. I have the freedom to paint or draw humans here."
by Adam Janali
"The best thing in life is freedom, you can do anything, you can let your voice speak whatever you want."
"My name is Adam Janali and I am twenty-seven years old. I am an Afghan refugee from the Hazara tribe, I was in detention for three years and got out about five months ago. I was in Port Hedland for two and a half years, and six months in Baxter.
When I was in the detention centre, I painted and did drawings,I found that it was a good way to show something about the way I feel to my friends outside of Port Hedland, to let people know about our situation."
26 October 2006: Out of Sight, Out of Mind: 2006 Refugee Week - KULCHA & Project SafeCom would like to invite you to a special event being held in conjunction with Refugee Week, joining the national Refugee Week celebrations by hosting a visual arts exhibition Out of Sight, Out of Mind, by Adam Janali Ozala. Ozala is a Hazara refugee from Afghanistan. For three and a half years he waited in detention centres for his claim for asylum to be approved. Unable to communicate to the outside world...
:::RAFFLE::: 21 June 2004: 2004 World Refugee Day Raffle: Another Country, Sydney PEN's Refugee Anthology - Sydney PEN's anthology of refugee writing, Another Country, was launched by Australian actor Claudia Karvan on May 16 2004 at Gleebooks. Just one hundred copies of the Special Edition, signed by Rosie Scott and Tom Keneally, were issued, and we have one of FOUR for you. Page is still worth looking at, even while it closed on 30 June 2004: it includes a Sydney Morning Herald editorial and a good article by Sharon Verghis about the book.
Because I spent three years in detention centre, I need some rest, you know. I am here alone, I don't know about my family, or if they are in Pakistan or Iran, I don't know.
When I got out of detention, I came to Perth because I have a friend here, and needed help with housing and setting up life because the detention centre doesn't have anything like this to help. I have been in Perth for five months now, and in that time, I have made some good Australian friends. Now, in Perth, I go to College, and I study English. I like to improve my English reading and writing, my conversation is a little bit good but I want to improve my reading and writing skills. I enjoy Perth but I don't like the weather, it's very hot. Because I came from a cold area, I don't like to feel the hot weather. When I finish my study, maybe I go to Brisbane or Tassie. I have heard that Tasmania is a quiet place, and is cold as well.
In Australia, the thing I like most is the freedom, and the people are very friendly, and very peaceful. Another thing that I like is that migrant people can do anything they want about their culture. Things I like least, policy, I don't like political policy, and I don't like that Australia joined the war in Iraq because I read many books about Australia that it was a peaceful country, and helped other countries against their enemy, against their occupiers. I read the book in the detention centre, and now Australia became one of the occupiers.
[In Afghanistan] we didn't know about human rights and what this means. Since I came here, I changed it, I threw many things out of my mind like some things that are very fundamentalist. Now, my religion is on human issues, and human rights. When somebody asks me "What is your religion?" I will not answer "My religion is just Islam." But i believe in a humanist approach and I practise this to make my life and my relationship with society not because we are religious, but because we are human. I learnt this from Australia, from the people of Australia. When you look at someone and wonder what kind of religion or what kind of belief a person has, you have to look at a human as a person. I believe in this. I am very happy I learnt this thing in Australia because it's very different [in Afghanistan]. [Over there] there is no human, just if you are Muslim, they respect you, if you are not Muslim, they don't respect you.
In Australia, there is respect for humans and respect for religion. They are important things which I now believe in. And there is freedom. The best thing in life is freedom, you can do anything, you can let your voice speak whatever you want. You are also able to make your own choices in life, and you are able to think. In Afghanistan, you cannot think. If you think, they know what you are thinking, and it's like a crime where they punish you. If you don't care about religion, then, to them, you're not a Muslim, you're a bad person, the enemy.
I am a refugee and I have an temporary protection visa. I am not a citizen, but I do have my human rights. They [Australians] don't look at me like I am a refugee, no, because I am human and I have rights. I can't vote because I am not Australian, but I have other rights as Australians do. I can study, I can do my paintings. In Afghanistan, it's a little bit different because painting is not allowed, they believe it's God's job. When I paint the shape of a human, it's God's job because I have to give it a soul. When I cannot give the painting or the drawing a soul, it's like I enter myself into God's job, so it's not allowed. But here, it's like a job, a duty. I have the freedom to paint or draw humans here.
I like to paint. I haven't studied anything about art, about painting. When I was in the detention centre, I painted and did drawings, I found that it was a good way to show something about the way I feel to my friends outside of Port Headland, to let people know about our situation. It has become my hobby and has kept myself busy. I like it, and now I draw cartoons, both political and caricatures. I have painted more than forty paintings but I sent all of them to my friends and supporters to say "thank you for your support."
I chose to do art because I can express my feelings. I like to write but my writing is poor, so I chose painting and art to show what I'm feeling. All of my paintings tell stories of our situation in the detention centre, and because of this, art means a lot to me. Through my art and my paintings, I want to let people know about something, for example, now because I am free, my plan is to paint and tell stories which people forget, like human rights, and about the human subject, and about experiences and people's life histories.
Art is like my life, but usually I don't rely on art to make my life or to sell and make money because my goals are different from money. Without the means to paint, it is like a gift without an outlet. I think the ability to paint is a gift from God, and now I use this gift to help other people. I don't think of myself as an artist, but people say I'm an artist, a good artist. I don't think I am a very good artist, but I would like to allow other people to judge when they see my art.
When people look very deep at my art for meaning, when they see my art, for example, on begging for freedom or children in the detention centre, and when they view the mixing of the colours and the shapes, they understand the meaning and they say to me "Oh, this is a wonderful painting." When I see people respond to my art, I think I am succeeding in letting people know [about our situation as refugees], I feel a little bit happy because it's a bit hard to understand, to understand the meaning of the painting.
Some of my cartoons have been published in a book about refugee people called Another Country. I do a lot of exhibiting and publishing because I want to help some people through my paintings. I don't have money to help, so I think maybe I can help through selling my paintings. Because now I am outside [from detention] and I did many paintings about refugees, my plan is now about other issues as well such as the homeless and poor people, maybe in Africa or Asia, and about how we can help them and how we can find a solution.
On the Future
I don't know about my future, actually, because I don't know if I will stay here and become an Australian citizen or not, it depends on the government. But, I would like to see and to know more about Australia.
Because I am still young, I have many, many dreams to do things. But my first dream is to help anyone who needs help. When I was in the detention centre, some people helped me without knowing me very well, they helped me just because I am human. I learnt that from them, and it is now my dream to help anyone if I can. Since I got out of detention, I have been re-born. It changed me as a person forever.
This is Adam Janali's story as told to Michelle Yan. Adam, 27, is an Afghan refugee living in Perth, WA where he is currently studying English and creating social change through his numerous artworks.
From Vibewire net
Adam Janali can be contacted by email at adamjanali(at)yahoo.com.au (replace (at) with @ in the email address).