Still Alive

STILL ALIVE by Safdar Ahmed, published April 2021

‘An arrestingly powerful use of the graphic novelSensitive, heart-breaking, stippled with dark humour, it’s hard to imagine a more potent indictment of Australia’s immigration detention, nor a clearer call to change it.’ Cameron Woodhead, the Age ‘Pick of the Week’, April 17, 2021

‘Still Alive exemplifies the graphic novel’s capacity for juxtaposition as resistance. His intricately layered pages demonstrate the effect of government policies on real people.’  Eloise Grills, The Saturday Paper, April 10, 2021

‘I want you to know how profound an experience this graphic novel offers its readers. Read it, feel it as deeply as the content demands – and then share it with anyone who still needs convincing that immigration detention must end.’  Ele Jenkins, Readings Carlton


In early 2011, Safdar Ahmed visited Sydney’s Villawood Immigration Detention Centre for the first time. He brought pencils and sketchbooks into the centre and started drawing with the people detained there. Their stories are told in this book.

Interweaving journalism, history and autobiography, Still Alive is an intensely personal indictment of Australia’s refugee detention policies and procedures. It is also a searching reflection on the redemptive power of art. And death metal.

Safdar Ahmed won a Walkley Award in 2015 for his web comic Villawood: Notes from an immigration detention centre.

Those seeking asylum in Australia due to war, strife and violence in their home countries face extraordinary challenges both during their journey and upon arrival. Ahmed’s book focuses on people who arrive in Australia by boat. For these people, a long, perilous journey ends with the often equally perilous obstacles they face when dealing with Australia’s legal processes, with the privations of onshore and offshore detention centres, and with inadequate health and psychological support.

Still Alive also includes the author’s own self-reflective thoughts on the ethics of telling other people’s stories, the aesthetics of comics and heavy metal, and the way art can be used for catharsis, healing and redemption after trauma.

About the Author


Safdar Ahmed is a Sydney-based artist, musician and educator. He is a founding member of the community art organisation Refugee Art Project, and member of eleven, a collective of contemporary Muslim Australian artists, curators and writers. He is the author of Reform and Modernity in Islam (IB Tauris, 2013) and the Walkley Award–winning documentary web-comic Villawood: Notes from an immigration detention centre (2015). He also sings and plays guitar with the anti-racist death metal band Hazeen.

Still Alive media release

Still Alive Teachers Notes

Still Alive Author Notes and References

Still Alive front cover

Still Alive full cover

Watch Safdar reading from and discussing Still Alive

Watch Safdar in conversation with Maria Tumarkin

Listen to Safdar being interviewed by Richard Watts  ‘Smart Arts’ on RRR (listen from the 1.04 to 1.22 )

Publication date: 1 April 2021
ISBN: 978-0-9805937-3-0
Format: Paperback, 240 x 170mm
Extent: 240 pages
Price: AUS $30.00


‘This book brought me to tears – it is a moving and profoundly important work of art.’ – Isobelle Carmody, writer and activist

Still Alive is about the humble power of writing and drawing, by anyone brave enough to hold a pencil, to subvert the silence that others would wish to impose upon us.’ – Shaun Tan, artist and writer

‘These are stories of uncomfortable truths which must be told and read by anyone who cares about fundamental questions of justice and humanity in this country.’ – David Manne, human rights lawyer

‘This is a book about resilience, a rollercoaster that takes us through pain, shame, rage, sadness and, against all odds, hope. Will there be a happy ending?’ – Ahmad Hakim, Refugee Voices