Through refugee art that we can come to appreciate the power of determination and see the true strength in creativity.
Humankind’s ability to rise after a great struggle is quite remarkable. So many refugees, despite what they’ve left behind, have used their experiences to build a new life for themselves. Sometimes these past’s are confronting but these are images all of Australia, and even the world, need to see.

We’ve found a few amazing refugee artists, but there are so many more talented people out there overcoming these struggles every day. Maybe it’s time we opened our eyes to them.

Kamaleshwaran Selladurai

Kamaleshwaran Selladurai is a Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka. During his two years in Australian refugee centres, he spent time teaching himself to paint with no previous experience. In 2011, Kamaleshwaran was granted a permanent visa in Australia. He now lives and works in Sydney.

“Painting has changed my life. I have improved in my art, and I love to paint new and different subjects. I want to show how refugees feel in my painting and what the people in detention are going through. Everyone in detention misses their family, and the process is far too long.”


Michael Adonai

Michael Adonai, a refugee from Eritrea, began his artistic career in the 1980’s. His coptic-style art reflects his experiences as a freedom fighter during the war in his home country. He has successfully held exhibits of his work all over the world – the UK, USA, Japan, South Africa, Sweden, Eritrea, Sudan, Singapore, Kuwait, Ethiopia and Italy. He now teaches fine arts and frequently exhibits his work in solo and group exhibitions in Australia.

‘As a refugee artist, [the] ECL program has given me the confidence that I can have a sustainable and successful career in the arts in Australia.’


Alwy Fadhel

Alwy Fadhel was an asylum seeker detained for five years in the Villawood Detention Centre. His art consists of paintings made with instant coffee powder diluted in water. He was taught by an Iraqi detainee who had some knowledge of coffee art. The use of food as an artistic medium says a lot about the resources provided to human beings in these detention centres.

His works focus on some themes mainly of hardships that detainees commonly face; These include homesickness, anxiety, depression, and the trauma of witnessing others commit acts of self-harm and suicide.


Murtaza Hussaini

Murtaza Hussaini, a refugee from Afganistan, has drawn upon his personal experience from the war-torn country to help launch a promising career as a portrait artist. Murtaza settled in Australia in 2009 after he and his family fled across the border to Pakistan before they were granted refugee status in Australia. Murtaza is now in his second year of a Visual Arts degree at the University of South Australia.

“It was around the time when there was a heated debate in Australian politics about the rights of asylum seekers, and I wanted to show that refugees have to overcome a lot of personal struggles to try and start a new life here and are not posing a threat to anyone.”


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