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Refugee painting with toothbrush, finalist for Australia's most prestigious award

Refugee painting with toothbrush, finalist for Australia’s most prestigious award

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Sydney (AFP) – A Kurdish refugee was nominated for Australia’s most prestigious art prize on Thursday for a self-portrait drawn using a toothbrush while in custody for eight years.

Mostafa Azimitaber, a Kurdish man who left Iran, told AFP he had lived “one of the best moments of his life” since learning that he had been the finalist for the Archibald Painting Prize for Best Painter since 1921. Australia.

He began painting with a toothbrush in 2014, when he was confined to a “sea” detention camp for illegal immigrants run by Australia on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

After being refused paint by his guards for fear that he would swallow it to the detriment of himself, Mr Asimitibar returned to the shelter he shared with dozens of other refugees. There he stared at a cup of coffee and a toothbrush.

“I do not know what happened … it was a special moment. I grabbed a toothbrush, dipped it in coffee and ran it over the paper,” he described the moment as a “victory”.

When he was in custody for eight years he titled his serial number “KNS088”, and his work wanted to capture the “pain, sadness and strength” of refugee life.

“Art and painting helped me stay strong and persistent, because when I was painting, I felt no trauma,” he said.

Mr. Asimitabar was finally released on January 21, 2021 without any notice or explanation. Since then, he has sought to rebuild his career in Australia, working for a charity.

He continues to paint, but now says he was not inspired by traditional tools. “This toothbrush is a very good friend of mine,” he explained.

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The winner of the 100,000 Australian dollar (68,000 euro) Archibald Prize will be announced on May 13.