Refugee artist in Australia named for art prize

Published May 6, 2022
Artist Mostafa Azimitabar speaks about his work in Sydney on Thursday.—AFP
Artist Mostafa Azimitabar speaks about his work in Sydney on Thursday.—AFP

SYDNEY: A refugee held for eight years in Australia’s hardline immigration system earned a finalist spot in the nation’s top art prize on Thursday — for a self-portrait he painted with a toothbrush.

For artist Mostafa Azimitabar, a Kurd who fled persecution in Iran, the honour came just over a year after he was released from one of Australia’s notorious immigration hotels.

He said a finalist berth for the Archibald — a portrait prize worth $72,192, which has been awarded to some of Australia’s most esteemed artists — was “one of the best moments of my life”.

Azimitabar’s self-portrait was painted using a toothbrush, a technique he began experimenting with in 2014, soon after being put into one of Australia’s offshore immigration detention camps on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.

“I asked one of the officers on Manus: ‘Can I have some paint?’... I would like to do some artwork because I don’t want to give up’,” he recalled.

Published in Dawn,May 6th, 2022

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