Location: Baker McKenzie, Tower One – International Towers Sydney, Level 46, 100 Barangaroo Ave, Barangaroo, Sydney
Safdar Ahmed’s graphic novel Still Alive is an incredibly powerful piece of art and storytelling. It has won numerous awards including the NSW Premier’s Literary Award for Book of the Year in 2022.
The purpose of this event is to keep the conversation about people in detention alive, in the hope of changing public attitudes and ultimately changing policies towards offshore and onshore detention.
All proceeds from the night will go directly towards supporting the work of Refugee Advice & Casework Service, a non-profit community legal centre that provides critical legal advice to refugees, people seeking asylum, the stateless and displaced. More details on the book, author and event can be found here.
We’re so excited to see Still Alive on the shortlist for the 2022 PM Literary Awards. Congratulations to all the authors, illustrators and publishers of the shortlisted titles and many thanks to the judges and organise.
‘Still Alive: Notes from Australia’s Immigration Detention System is a graphic novel that intertwines art and storytelling in a sophisticated way. Safdar Ahmed, a Sydney-based artist and educator, expertly untangles the stories of refugees from the Villawood Detention Centre in such a way that restores the humanity and agency of its storytellers, creating a historical document that gives voice to the voiceless. What is striking about Ahmed’s graphic novel is that he relates these accounts unapologetically through the eyes of the refugees, evoking emotional responses from the reader through well-thought-out narrative and artwork that highlights the fear, isolation, loneliness, and despair of refugees. Ahmed gives refugees a voice. One that powerfully allows them to untangle their thoughts, make sense of their experiences, and, above all, find hope.
‘There is a reason why Still Alive won the 2022 CBCA Eve Pownall Award. There is a reason why Still Alive won Book of the Year at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards as well as the Multicultural Award. There is a reason why Still Alive won the Gold Ledger at the Comic Arts Awards of Australia and was shortlisted by the Australian Library and Information Association in their Notable Australian Graphic Novels of 2021 list. It is a book that challenges the Australian public to reflect on its complicity in supporting the Australian government’s inhumane stance on refugees. It challenges the Australian public to realise that these stories aren’t relegated to the dustbin of history.’
Sunday 23rd October, 9.30am – 10.30am at The Carrington Hotel, Katoomba
This event with Kurdish-Iranian writer, journalist, scholar, advocate and filmmaker Behrouz Boochani (livestreamed from NZ) and multi-award winning artist, musician and educator Safdar Ahmed is not to be missed. Hosted by Nam Le. Supported by the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group.
Associate Professor Behrouz Boochani’s book, No Friend But The Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison, won the 2019 Victorian Prize for Literature in addition to the Non-fiction category. He was a political prisoner incarcerated by the Australian government in Papua New Guinea for almost seven years.
Safdar Ahmed is a Sydney-based artist, musician, educator. His debut graphic novel, Still Alive, Notes from Australia’s Immigration Detention System has won several awards, including Book of the Year at the 2022 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.
Nam Le’s first book, The Boat, was translated into fifteen languages and received over a dozen major awards in Australia, America, and Europe, including the PEN/Malamud Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award.
STILL ALIVE REVIEW IN SYDNEY REVIEW OF BOOKS
Thank you, Suvendrini Perera, for this thoughtful and beautifully written review of Still Alive by up now on the Sydney Review of Books.
STILL ALIVE WINNER – CBCA EVE POWNALL AWARD
We are utterly thrilled that Safdar Ahmed’s graphic novel Still Alive: Notes from Australia’s Immigration Detention System has WON the Eve Pownall Award in the 2022 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year awards.
During his interview with Claire Hooper, Safdar says:
“The main take-away I think is to understand that Australia’s policies are actively harming people who come here looking for protection. That the policies have to change. And also the importance of art and the importance of community in our lives, to struggle against that, and to create meaningful change.
I really hope it gets into high school. That was always the dream from the very beginning cause I feel like the younger generation genuinely care about human rights issues. That’s my main satisfaction: that this award will help get the book into more hands, and help to spread the message of the book.”
The judges say: “A confronting, raw and graphic account of the history and treatment of asylum seekers and refugees under successive Australian governments. Challenging, detailed and well-researched, powerfully produced from a personal perspective — journeys from their homelands and lived experiences are interspersed with history, news events, government policy and international human rights reports and reactions. The black and white drawings, well-integrated with the text, are detailed and the inclusion of artwork by the detainees is powerful. The language is direct, occasionally didactic, and emotive at times. Metaphors (written and drawn) such as monsters, knots and chess pieces are effective in representing the detainees’ stresses and traumas. There is mature content such as self-harm, executions, sexual intimacy and assault, both in written and drawn examples. The inclusion of further reading and actions will engage readers in exploring further.”
STILL ALIVE WINNER – GOLD LEDGER, COMIC ARTS AWARDS OF AUSTRALIA
Still Alive has just won GOLD at this year’s Comic Arts Awards of Australia which took place at the Perth Comic Arts Festival. The Australian comics community is very dear to our hearts and we are so grateful and thrilled to see Still Alive recognised in this way.
Safdar Ahmed’s extraordinary debut, Still Alive, is a deeply personal and critical account of the artist’s work within Australia’s immigration detention system and his encounters with the wrongfully imprisoned. This bold and ambitious graphic novel is an engrossing read from panel to panel, with searing and unforgettable images rendered in the author’s distinctive visual style. The writing and reflections are illuminating and engaging, and indicative of his deep commitment to justice.
Still Alive demonstrates how comics can be a sophisticated medium for narrative, self-reflexivity and reportage. The book is profoundly ethical in the way it centres the testimonies of people stripped of their humanity by the state. Alongside retellings of their complex histories, the author directly includes artistic artefacts created by a vulnerable population. This book rigorously examines the great lie which continues to scaffold Australia’s multiculturalism: that asylum seekers and refugees need to be made an example of.
This year’s shortlist is a thrilling showcase of the depth of excellence of contemporary Australian literature. Ranging in form, these literary works provide considered and vociferous commentary about the challenges we must urgently address and reflect on as a multicultural nation. The judging panel is delighted to award the prize to Still Alive for its vision, ambition and achievement. Ahmed’s work stands out as an example of brilliant storytelling created with and through community, a labour of generosity, and love. It is an unflinching critique of policy and discourse that demonstrates the power of art.
We are thrilled to share the news that Still Alive has been SHORTLISTED for the Eve Pownall Award by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. To our knowledge this is the first time that a graphic novel for older readers has been shortlisted in this category.
We are grateful for the ongoing support and recognition for this incredible book, which was created collaboratively with refugees who have experienced Australia’s immigration detention systems.
SAFDAR AHMED IS STILL ALIVE – ABC COMPASS
This fantastic episode of the ABC’s Compass program is dedicated to Safdar’s work with Refugee Art Project, music, and of course his graphic novel Still Alive.
We’re very excited to announce that the wonderful French publishing house, Cambourakis, will be publishing Still Alive in April 2022. Huge thanks to Nicolas Grivel Agency for making this happen.
FANTAGRAPHICS TO PUBLISH STILL ALIVE !
We are thrilled to announce that Still Alive by Safdar Ahmed will be published by Fantagraphics in their Underground imprint in late 2022.
Fantagraphics have been waving the flag for ‘serious comics’ for half a century. The title of the history of their first forty years, Comics As Art: We Told You So, provides a seven-word meme-grab of their mission. In terms of English-language comics publishers driving the medium and championing a range of voices and subject matters, Fantagraphics has had the greatest impact on broadening the idea of what is considered ‘comics’ in the 21st century. Twelve Panels Press is honoured to be associated with such a trailblazing, fearless publisher and this is a massive boost to our own project: working with comic-book makers to edit, design and publish graphic novels, and delivering their books to literate and diverse audiences.
STILL ALIVE LAUNCHED!
While we await the easing of restrictions so we can plan future events, have a look at these videos of Safdar’s reading and the fabulous Q&A with Maria Tumarkinfrom our Melbourne launch in May. You can also listen to this May 27 interview by Richard Watts on his radio show ‘Smart Arts’ on RRR (listen from the 1.04 to 1.22 marks – a really good 18 minute interview, highly recommended)
REVIEWS AND MEDIA
‘An arrestingly powerful use of the graphic novel … Sensitive, 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 and Sydney Morning Herald
‘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
‘Arresting, forensically detailed and meticulously researched … Buy it for your libraries. Read it and scrutinise your politicians: demand more of them! Changing the world begins with us and the systems we support or reject.’ Katherine England, Magpies Magazine
‘I think if there is a line running through all of my stuff it would be the idea of art as a type of introspective self-exploration, but mobilised in a strategic way to hopefully address some aspect of the human condition or a pressing moral or social concern. When it comes to zine-making and metal, both have that capability. I’m inspired by the DIY approach—the sense that we make our own culture—which is ingrained in zines and underground metal music. For me, both belong in a political context that is pluralistic and inherently anti-authoritarian, and are well tailored to expressing the idiosyncratic quirks of a personal or subjective voice.’ Safdar Ahmed