Remain, 2018 addresses invisible histories through the contentious interlinked topics of Australian border protection and the human rights of asylum seekers. Filmed on the infamous Manus Island, an immigration detention facility in Papua New Guinea, the work delivers a powerful depiction of the prolonged mistreatment of detainees.
Afshar weaves a haunting narrative as her camera follows a group of stateless men who remain on Manus Island despite the centre’s closure in October 2017. Through a series of intersecting stories, each recount the violence and hopeless desperation they have experienced, including their observations of murder, riot and suicide. One such voice is Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish Iranian writer who recites poetry. Another man vocalises a palpable sense of stripped identity and purpose through song. These deeply confronting stories are dramatically contrasted by the seemingly idyllic tropical environment in which the work is set among lush, tropical rainforest. Described as a ‘green hell’ by one of the protagonists, the men are imprisoned in a perpetual state of limbo.
Through a re-thinking of the documentary form, Hoda Afshar’s collaborative two channel video enables the revelation of concealed histories and repressed voices. Unflinchingly political, the artist draws attention to the ramifications of national policy on the human rights of the individual.