Nauru Files: Australia's leading artists bring human stories of detention centre to life

Nauru Files: Australia's leading artists bring human stories of detention centre to life

Nauru Files: Australia's leading artists bring human stories of detention centre to life

Updated 2 January 2018, 10:00 AEDT

Australia's leading artists attempt to bring to life the 2,000 leaked Nauru Files which detail allegations of abuse including sexual assaults and self-harm at the Nauru detention centre after the files fail to spark government action.

Asylum seeker Abbas Alaboudi left violence in Iraq to find freedom in Australia, but now he says his only voice is his art.

"I left for Australia because I heard about it being a safe place, a good democracy and having human rights but unfortunately when I arrived [on Nauru] I didn't see that," he said.

It has been more than a year since the Guardian Australia published the Nauru Files which outline allegations of abuse including assaults, sexual assaults and self-harm at the centre between 2013 and 2015.

Mr Alaboudi's paintings are based on his time in the Nauru detention centre and he is just one of several artists attempting to bring to life what more than 2,000 written files leaked from the facility could not.

Contributing artists, including Ben Quilty and former detainee Abbas Alaboudi, looked at the Nauru Files online and created a visual work in response.

Arielle Gamble, co-organiser of the exhibition, named All We Can't See, said it aimed to humanise the files.

"We want to connect people to the human stories behind the Nauru Files … we have evidence here that assaults, abuses, mistreatment, neglect is all happening to 2,000 people there," she said.

Mr Alaboudi said he joined the project because he wanted to show his stories through artwork.

Australia's leading artists are questioning why nothing has been done, despite several recommendations by a Senate inquiry into the files.

Response to Nauru Files not good enough: artist

Sydney artist Marisa Purcell said she was so shocked by what she read in the Nauru Files she wanted to make sure the rest of the country would pay attention.

Her piece is based on a file by a case worker who was told by an asylum seeker that he was going to kill himself.

"The work itself for me refers to this idea of being caged and being isolated and the extreme darkness that comes with that and the lack of hope," she said.

"So, when I read all of the files the thing that was the most obvious was the hopelessness that people feel when they're there and the hopelessness that I feel as an engaged citizen and what can I do."

The exhibition will soon launch a website calling for the public to submit their own artworks based on the Nauru Files.

"I think this project is one small facet of a huge groundswell of Australians who are using whatever means they can to speak against this brutal policy of detention and call for change," Ms Gamble said.

Abdul Abdullah, another artist showing in the exhibition, said he wanted the pieces to send a message.

"I don't think there's been enough response to the Nauru Files at all," he said.

"This is a visual language as opposed to a written one and I think that can be really effective sometimes."

The exhibition is due to open in Sydney in February.