Artwork entitled 'Detention', created in 2014 by Melbourne-based Iranian refugee, Samaneh Malekshahi. It is part of 'Attache Case', a collective artwork co-ordinated by Peter Burke in 2015. The painting depicts a hand grasping onto a fence with a view of open sky and grass on the other side of the fence.

Samaneh is a self-taught visual artist who comes from a creative and art-loving family. She has been painting since she was eight years old and her mediums include sculpture, woodcarving, painting, drawing, knitting, craft, clay and plaster.

Her artwork focuses on an exploration of light and colour, as well as social issues. She feels most alive when creating artwork. She is a member of the Melbourne Artists for Asylum Seekers and regularly participate in their group exhibitions. Samaneh also created artwork entitled 'Await' (HT56009.29) which is also included in this collection.

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

Oil on canvas board


'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, opportunities, 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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