Being a spectator, viewing the sights and sounds of people traumatised, by wars on twenty-four hour headline news shows in our living rooms, is a major part of our first world lives. As artist, I believe it is important to create portraits challenging the sensationalised stories about refugees and asylum seekers that journalists sell through the media, with the byline ‘…if it bleeds it leads’.
In order to portray Hoda Brovayeh’s brave, intelligent and inspirational story, I made a point of getting to spend time to listen to her stories first hand. Hoda belongs to persecuted Arab ethnic minority in Iran known as Ahwazi- also know as the Marsh Arabs.
For the portrait, Ho Da decided to wear a red traditional Ahwazi dress. Here, in Australia, she is free to wear this beautiful red dress with the joy and pride of the culture it represents. The background reeds, signify the Ahawzi struggle to retain their culture on the once fertile flood plains of the rivers, for which they cannot longer grow crops because of the Iranian government’s deliberate diversion of the water. This has led to the destruction of the lifestyle and culture of the Al Ahwaz people. Ho Da fled Iran, because Ahwazi people no longer feel safe speaking their native language in the street. They are discriminated against and finding work is extremely difficult, especially for Ahwazi women.
After hearing Ho Da’s passionate talk about her life experiences at an International Women’s Day event I felt compelled to make a portrait of her. A brave, articulate and intelligent woman who challenges the negative stories about refugees and asylum seekers.
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