This book is covered in faces looking right out at you. Turn it over and the back is, too. I was about to go drop myself into the armchair Verge reading room, then from about knee level on my right hand side I found I was being stared at. I picked it up.
Put together by Michael Fikaris, Sam Wallman and Safdar Ahmed, “Where do I belong” is a collaborative effort in visual storytelling. The function of this compilation of comics is to foreground art and stories by asylum seekers and refugees who are in detention.
From the links in hurricane fencing to the intersecting lines of the comics grid (and every space in between), “Where do I belong” crisses and crosses us through diverse, confluent viewpoints on displacement, confinement, detention and and resettlement. These themes are explored in the work of the editors, art by participants in Fikaris’ youth workshops on asylum, art by asylum seekers in detention and, lastly, in a collaborative work by Ahmed and former refugee Saad Tlaa.
It presents a variety of accounts of the experience of seeking asylum as a new arrival Australia. To use Ahmed’s words, by putting these stories and illustrations in front of our eyes, this work “speaks truth to power by showing up our government’s racism and lack of compassion” in Australia’s treatment of new arrivals.
Review by Lizzie Nagy.