Aung Saw Lim (family name Nan Man) was a Burmese refugee from the Yangon Division of Myanmar. He was detained on Nauru and Manus Island(Papua New Guinea) from 2010 to 2018 and produced photographs and crochet work during his detention.
Aung Saw Lim (family nickname Man Man) was a Burmese refugee from the Yangon Division of Myanmar. He was detained on Nauru and Manus Island (Papua New Guinea) from 2010 to 2018.
Refugee advocate, Jill Parris, started a friendship with Man Man on Facebook. She admired and 'liked' the landscape photographs he had posted. As a photographer of everyday life on Manus, Man Man uploaded pictures that documented life on Manus including views of his living quarters, the landscape and fauna on the island, views of the New Lorengua Camp, the West Lorengua transition centre, and food and medical supplies prepared for blockades on Manus.
To cope with life in detention, Man Man not only took photographs but learned to crochet and knit from an Australian case manager. He reflected in a Facebook post 'I'm crochet and knit is here and many men say that what I do is 'a lady's job' but I don't care what they say. I'm continuing because I know myself. Male, female, gay, lesbian or transgender, this is my life.' His photographs and crochet works are self-published in a book 'Man Man: Making Meaning on Manus,' which he co-authored with Jill. Jill wrote in their book that Man Man enjoyed crocheting as he found the 'rhythmic activity helped him relax, kept him occupied for hour upon endless hour and used his innate skills with colour and form.' The book also contains Man Man's philosophies on handling life in detention. He expressed a need to withhold expressions of suffering and focus on dreams of developing enough of his craft to be able to have a shop one day.
After about two years of communication on Facebook, Jill's son bought rollerblades that Man Man had requested, and sent them to Manus, though they were not received. Jill later connected with advocates who travelled to Manus to get them delivered to him in person. She writes in their book that there was not an advocacy agenda to the friendship, just a developing deep connection. As Jill learned more about Man Man and Manus, she later took a position of protest against Australia's detention policies and practices. Man Man entrusted Jill with his story, photographs and objects which then resulted in their deposit in the museum's collection.
After four and a half years on Manus Island, Man Man was accepted for asylum in the United States in January 2018, as part of the intake of refugees from Manus negotiated between the Australian and United States governments. He resettled in Atlanta, Georgia and remains in contact with his Australian friends and advocates through Facebook.