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Manus Recording Project Collective; Michael Green, André Dao, Jon Tjhia, Abdul Aziz Muhamat, Farhad Bandesh, Behrouz Boochani, Samad Abdul, Shamindan Kanapathi and Kazem Kazemi

Speak­ing on a smug­gled phone from inside the Aus­tralian-run immi­gra­tion deten­tion centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, Abdul Aziz Muhamat related an anec­dote about his day. He’d been stand­ing near the gate when a secu­rity guard had called someone’s name three or four times. The man was stand­ing nearby but he didn’t reply. Aziz told the guard to call his ID number instead – the man responded imme­di­ately. Look, man, no one is pre­tend­ing here. Why should he pre­tend?’ Aziz told the guard. We forgot our names.’”
They Cannot Take the Sky: Sto­ries from Deten­tion (2017)

how are you today

Since 2013, nearly two thou­sand men have been indef­i­nitely detained on Manus Island, PNG, by the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment – after arriv­ing in this coun­try seek­ing asylum. When the Manus Regional Pro­cess­ing Centre was for­mally closed on 31 Octo­ber 2017, after the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court declared it uncon­sti­tu­tional, the men still detained there were ordered to relo­cate to new, smaller deten­tion cen­ters in Loren­gau, the major town on Manus. The author­i­ties elim­i­nated pro­vi­sions and removed the diesel gen­er­a­tors pow­er­ing the facil­ity, but the men refused to leave: the cul­mi­na­tion of years of organ­ised resis­tance against their invol­un­tary and indef­i­nite deten­tion. Even­tu­ally, they were force­fully evicted. 

The work com­mis­sioned for Eaves­drop­ping is a col­lab­o­ra­tion between some of these men – Farhad Ban­desh, Behrouz Boochani, Samad Abdul, Shamin­dan Kana­p­athi, Kazem Kazemi and Abdul Aziz Muhamat on Manus – and Michael Green, André Dao and Jon Tjhia in Mel­bourne. Every day for the dura­tion of the exhi­bi­tion, one of the men on Manus will make a sound record­ing – of any­thing they like or noth­ing much at all – and send it onshore’ for swift upload to the gallery. No doubt the vagaries of weather, black­outs and tech­nol­ogy, along with chang­ing per­sonal, polit­i­cal and legal con­texts, will inter­vene along the way.

how are you today opens a chan­nel for a form of speech at a moment when words seem to have been exhausted. It is at once an extremely inti­mate work – a rare oppor­tu­nity to listen to these men lis­ten­ing, only very recently, some four thou­sand kilo­me­tres away – and a highly polit­i­cal one. It intro­duces the Manus sound­scape to the gallery not just for the sake of the sounds-in-them­selves, not just as a matter of curios­ity (though the work will surely pro­duce an archive of real his­tor­i­cal value), but in a way that directly impli­cates the lis­tener and demands that we attend to the politico-legal con­texts that pro­duce and frame them.

Abdul Aziz Muhamat is a 25-year-old man from Darfur, Sudan. He is from the Zaghawa eth­nic­ity, and with his family, he fled his vil­lage to a refugee camp. He arrived in Aus­tralia by boat in 2013 and was taken to Manus Island, where he remains. He has become one of the pri­mary public voices among the men there, includ­ing through the multi-award win­ning pod­cast, The Mes­sen­ger.

Farhad Ban­desh is a 36-year-old Kur­dish musi­cian, painter and poet who has been detained on Manus Island for over five years. Before seek­ing asylum, he worked as a guitar maker, and has no formal art train­ing. Whilst in deten­tion, he has pro­duced solo and col­lab­o­ra­tive works of music, art and writ­ing. He loves nature and is a keen gar­dener; his sis­ters now look after his plants.

Behrouz Boochani is a Kur­dish-Iran­ian writer, jour­nal­ist, scholar, cul­tural advo­cate and film­maker. He was writer for the Kur­dish lan­guage mag­a­zine Werya. He writes reg­u­larly for The Guardian and sev­eral other pub­li­ca­tions. Boochani is also co-direc­tor (with Arash Kamali Sar­ves­tani) of the 2017 fea­ture-length film Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time, and author of No Friend but the Moun­tains: Writ­ing from Manus Prison. He has been held on Manus Island since 2013.

Kazem Kazemi is a 36-year-old Kur­dish musi­cian, heavy metal and rock song­writer and poet. Before seek­ing asylum in Aus­tralia, he lived in Khor­ramshahr, Iran, and worked as an elec­tri­cian.

Shamin­dan Kana­p­athi is a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee. In Sri Lanka he was a mar­ket­ing exec­u­tive and a stu­dent.

Samad Abdul has been detained in an Aus­tralian run off­shore deten­tion centre on Manus for the last five years. He loves cricket and his only dream was to be a pro­fes­sional crick­eter but politi­cians have taken his dream and used him as a polit­i­cal pris­oner. Although his five years will not come back, he now wants to be a social worker to help those who are in pain.

Michael Green is a writer, radio-maker and pro­ducer. He is the host of The Mes­sen­ger pod­cast and his work has won many national and inter­na­tional awards, includ­ing the 2017 Walk­ley Award for Radio/​Audio fea­ture. He has trav­elled to Manus Island twice.

André Dao is a writer of fic­tion and non-fic­tion. He is the co-founder of Behind the Wire, an oral his­tory project doc­u­ment­ing people’s expe­ri­ence of immi­gra­tion deten­tion, and the deputy editor of New Philoso­pher. He is also a qual­i­fied lawyer, and has worked with asylum seek­ers and refugees in a legal capac­ity.

Jon Tjhia is a radio-maker, musi­cian and writer. As the Wheeler Centre’s senior dig­i­tal editor, he led the Wheeler Centre’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with Behind the Wire to pro­duce The Mes­sen­ger. He’s a co-founder of Paper Radio and the Aus­tralian Audio Guide.

Eavesdropping

Info

How are you Today, 2018
Manus Recording Project Collective

19.09.18
Kazem, on Monday, cleaning the oven and making coffee

Archive

19.09.18
Kazem, on Monday, cleaning the oven and making coffee

18.09.18
Aziz, yesterday evening, replying to phone messages and organising for sick people to see doctors

16.09.18
Farhad, yesterday, trying to wake himself up by listening to music

15.09.18
Shamindan, yesterday, discussing recent suicide attempts in the camp

14.09.18
Behrouz, on Monday, speaking with visiting refugee advocate Ian Rintoul

13.09.18
Samad, the night before last, watching 'Home Invasion'

12.09.18
Kazem, on Monday, making a capsicum, mushroom and chicken pizza

11.09.18
Aziz, yesterday, with Behrouz and visiting refugee advocates Ian and Nicole

09.09.18
Farhad, a couple of Saturdays ago, taking the bus to the market and music hall

08.09.18
Shamindan, yesterday, on a boat to Rara Island

07.09.18
Behrouz, the day before yesterday, speaking about his book to an event in Sydney

06.09.18
Kazem, on Saturday, taking a shower

05.09.18
Samad, last night, celebrating a friend's impending resettlement to the United States

04.09.18
Farhad, walking through Lorengau's town centre on Manus Day – last Monday

02.09.18
Aziz, last weekend, making a speech to a protest in Melbourne via phone

01.09.18
Shamindan, last night, waiting in the mess for dinner

31.08.18
Behrouz, late last night, having a discussion with Mansour the duck man

30.08.18
Kazem, on Tuesday night, walking around the East Lorengau compound

29.08.18
Samad, on the weekend, going for a walk

28.08.18
Aziz, on the weekend, speaking to Nurann who is on hunger strike

26.08.18
Shamindan, yesterday, on the local bus to town

25.08.18
Farhad, on the weekend, taking his first trumpet lesson with 'Sky', a Manusian musician

24.08.18
Behrouz, yesterday, speaking at Macquarie University via WhatsApp with his translator

23.08.18
Shamindan, yesterday, sitting in his room and listening to a classic song

22.08.18
Kazem, on Sunday, buying electric guitar strings

21.08.18
Aziz, on the weekend, cooking kebabs for his friends

19.08.18
Samad, this morn­ing, lis­ten­ing to rubab music

18.08.18
Farhad, a couple of days ago at the beach with friends (and Shalan, their dog), talk­ing to a young Manus man

17.08.18
Behrouz, yes­ter­day, prac­tic­ing singing at a place beside the camp

16.08.18
Kazem, on the week­end, shop­ping at Loren­gau market

15.08.18
Shamin­dan, on Sunday, at church

14.08.18
Aziz, the day before yes­ter­day, play­ing cards and lis­ten­ing to music from Sudan

12.08.18
Farhad, on Friday, trying to do his wash­ing – and wait­ing

11.08.18
Behrouz, last night, prac­tic­ing singing with his Kur­dish friend Arin

10.08.18
Samad, yes­ter­day at three in the morn­ing, lis­ten­ing to the crea­tures in the jungle

09.08.18
Kazem, at the start of this week, play­ing guitar in the laun­dry room of the East Loren­gau camp

08.08.18
Aziz, the night before last, lis­ten­ing to bird sounds on his phone to relax his mind

07.08.18
Samad, last week, lis­ten­ing to waves and trying to relax

05.08.18
Farhad, a couple of days ago, speak­ing with a local Manus man

04.08.18
Shamin­dan, a couple of days ago, at Loren­gau market

03.08.18
Behrouz, the night before last, sit­ting by the fence near the jungle

02.08.18
Kazem, two days ago, donat­ing blood at Loren­gau Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal

01.08.18
Samad, last week, at boxing prac­tice

31.07.18
Aziz, the week before last, con­sol­ing his Somali friend with some Somali music

29.07.18
Kazem, a couple of days ago, talk­ing to Man­sour in the East Loren­gau camp

28.07.18
Shamin­dan, last week, speak­ing with Sri­ran­gan while he cooks fish curry

27.07.18
Behrouz, the day before yes­ter­day, walk­ing in the jungle in the morn­ing

26.07.18
Farhad, last week, play­ing music, making tea and lis­ten­ing to songs

25.07.18
Samad, a couple of weeks ago, lis­ten­ing to slow music

24.07.18
Aziz, last week, watch­ing the World Cup final with the guys