Artwork entitled 'Children at Work', created in 2015 by Melbourne-based artist, Mehdi Jaghuri. It is part of 'Attache Case', a collective artwork co-ordinated by Peter Burke in 2015. Mehdi also created two other artworks in this collection: 'Burka' (HT56009.22) and 'Kids at Work'' (HT56009.21).

Artist statement provided by Mehdi in 2021:
'Mehdi Jaghuri is a visual artist living and working in Melbourne. His father was one of the first Hazaras to arrive in Australia by boat and seek asylum in 1998. Mehdi, aged 12, and the rest of his family arrived in Australia seven years later. Mehdi completed a Visual Art Diploma at Victoria University and a Fine Art Degree at Monash University. In 2015 he founded Connections Arts Space, a not-for-profit arts organisation in Dandenong, which supports emerging artists as they find their creative voice through art in the early stages of their careers. My artworks titled 'Burka,' 'Kids at Work' and 'Children at Work' are images of Afghanistani children.'

This collective artwork, entitled 'Attache Case' (HT56009), was created by Melbourne artist, curator and lecturer Peter Burke in 2015 as part of an international touring art installation, 'Low-Cost Diplomatic Bag', auspiced by the Spanish Embassy, and curated by Nilo Casares and ArtEx Madrid. It travelled to the Spanish Embassies in five countries, including Australia, in 2015-2016 (one venue included Immigration Museum, Melbourne). 'Attache Case' is comprised of a re-purposed doctor's medical case which opens to reveal small drawers containing 41 individuals' miniature artworks representing 21 refugees from Afghanistan, Vietnam, Poland, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Iran, Egypt and Iraq.

The artworks inside the case are acrylic and oil paintings and collage works on canvas board and copper. Many artworks have handwritten descriptions on paper by the artists on the reverse. The collection also includes a video about the project by César Espada produced in 2015.

Physical Description

Mixed media on canvas board. Child carrying bricks on his head.


'Attache Case' is a collective artwork created in 2015 in response to an invitation by artist, Peter Burke, to a number of asylum seekers and refugees in Melbourne to express their experience visually. The refugees and asylum seekers (some in detention at the time of the project) who produced the artworks came from diverse countries including Afghanistan, Vietnam, Poland, Hungary, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Iran, Egypt and Iraq. They explore diverse themes relating to detainment, immigration, border security policies, bureaucracy, and mental health.

The artists convey thoughts and feelings about freedom, opprtunities, life in Australia, resettlement, optimism, despair, grief, hope, fear and anger and the consequences of living in limbo. These refugee and asylum seeker's voices, concerns, and personal perspectives are not often publicly expressed and more often manipulated by media and politics or silenced in their community.

This complex artwork contains a diversity of cultures, genders, experiences, artistic styles, and responses. The oil and acrylic paintings are objects rich with symbolic meaning - both as a part of a luggage item reminiscent of the migrant experience, as well as a traveller's borderless container (representing migration, diplomacy, policy and bureaucracy) of voices that speak to the issues that are at the heart of the asylum seeker situation and debate.

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