Manus Island detainee releases music video collaboration with Melb City Ballet


The 36-year-old Kurdish man has been on the island for six years so far.

“Hunted like a bird, languish in a cage” are the opening lyrics to a song 38-year-old Kurdish asylum seeker Farhad Bandesh has produced from within detention on Manus Island.

“The song is about being free from the cages, it’s about being free from Australia’s cruel policy,” Bandesh told The Feed.

“Because I am a prisoner.”

'The Big Exhale' is a poetic reflection of a life lived in limbo, dependent on the policies of a government 3,500 km away.

“I want all Australians to know about the experience of us on Manus Island,” he said.

Bandesh is currently in indefinite detention on the remote Papua New Guinean island, a product of the Australian Government’s offshore processing policies.

“[The politicians] kill our hope. We are depressed, hopeless. The experience on this remote island is really, really awful.”

His music has been made possible through the cross-cultural label Wantok Musik. His latest release was made in collaboration with David Bridie and Jenell Quinsee. A music video was performed by the Melbourne City Ballet, organised by Wendyhouse Films.

David Bridie has worked in Papua New Guinea since before Australia’s offshore detention policies, he was connected with Bandesh through those working with asylum seekers on the island. He says Bandesh is singing for his life.

“I’ve never seen art be more vital in my life,” Mr Bridie said.

“That’s what keeps him sane in a place where insanity abounds.”

Mr Bandesh’s latest release reflects the feeling of the 500-odd detainees on Manus Island. There isn’t much to occupy people on the remote island, hopelessness easily overcomes those who don’t have a passion like Bandesh has with his art.

But in the past three weeks, despair has overwhelmed the island.

There have been reports that at least 30 people asylum seekers and refugees have tried to take their own lives since the re-election of the coalition, a government with a historically tough stance on immigration.

“Many of my friends have done this. I’m really worried about them and I can’t do anything,” Farhad said.

“I am one of them, I am their friend. I have lived with them for six years.”

Bandesh explains that detainees on the island follow Australian politics very closely. Simply because there is nothing to do and it so deeply affects their lives.

“We are always following Australian policy, but there is nothing that will change because [the Liberal Party] are still in power. That was hard news,” he said.

Bandesh, like other detainees, has access to phones and internet, so he can track who is connecting with his art and music. Bandesh says this has made him feel more hopeful, because it’s reassuring people in Australia care about his future.

While he waits for his limbo to end, Bandesh will continue to make art. Not just music, but painting and crafting instruments, too.

But Bandesh explains that those on the island need just one thing to survive. Freedom.

“Human beings just need that one simple thing.”

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