Throughout August 2020, subscribers received a text message every day with a new ten-minute audio recording from Farhad Bandesh, Farhad Rahmati, Samad Abdul, Shamindan Kanapathi, Thanush Selvraj or Yasin Abdallah.
These men, seeking asylum by boat, were forcibly transferred to Manus Island by the Australian government nearly seven years ago. Now, they are held in hotels or detention centres in Port Moresby, Melbourne or Brisbane.
‘For this recording, of course, there will be people who find it boring, and they won’t want to listen. But there are many people here, who just sit down and try to understand. They close their eyes, just to imagine the people in Manus, and try to make a connection with the men, in Manus. And that’s why I think this work is very interesting … it takes the audience inside the prison camp, just to live with them for a while. To witness their lives. Another thing really that is very important, is that this system treats us in a way where we do not exist. But we do exist. Sometimes we exist in Australia, through these artworks, you know. That part is very surreal. That is the important thing about this work. That it allows us to say: here we are.’
Behrouz Boochani, in conversation
with André Dao about how are you today,
3 December 2019.
- [8:36 pm, 16/11/2019] Michael Green:
How are things in the hotel?
- [7:01 pm, 17/11/2019] Yasin Abdallah:
Still waiting ...
Subscribers of where are you today received a daily text message containing a link to each day’s ten-minute recording. The site displays some additional information: the number of kilometres between you and the person who made the recording, and the number of hours or days that have elapsed since the recording* was made.
* In order to calculate that information, the site will require access to your device’s location. You will be prompted to allow the site to access that data. Depending on the privacy settings on your device, you may not see that prompt. Any data shared will only be displayed in a de-identified, generic format recording the distance between recorder and listener – i.e. 15km, or 180km. More precise location data, if shared, will be stored in a de-identified format – i.e. unconnected to a phone number – for possible use in a future archive of where are you today. Nobody, including the Manus Recording Project Collective, will be able to determine the identity of a listener based on that archive.
FARHAD BANDESH is a 38-year-old Kurdish musician, painter and poet who was detained on Manus Island for six years, and now for more than a year in the Mantra Hotel and Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA). Before seeking asylum, he worked as a guitar maker. He 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.
FARHAD RAHMATI is a civil engineer from Khorramabad City in Iran. He was forcibly sent to Manus Island in 2013 and then evacuated to Australia in 2019 to be treated for a heart condition he developed in PNG. He was held at Kangaroo Point Central Hotel for eight months, where, from his balcony, he watched people walking their dogs on the outside. In June, he was moved to Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA).
SAMAD ABDUL was detained in an Australian run offshore detention centre on Manus for five years. For the last two years he has been in Port Moresby, where he is still not free. 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 seven years will not come back, he now wants to be a social worker to help those who are in pain.
SHAMINDAN KANAPATHI is a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee. In Sri Lanka he was a marketing executive and a student. He was detained on Manus Island for six years and is now held in Port Moresby.
THANUSH SELVRAJ is a 32-year-old Sri Lankan Tamil refugee who fled persecution. In Sri Lanka he was a painter, artist, hairdresser, phone and computer repairer, photo and video editor and a student. He was detained on Manus Island before being transferred to Port Moresby hotel detention. From PNG he was transferred to the Mantra Hotel in Preston, Melbourne. He is currently being held in MITA with no hope of his freedom.
YASIN ABDALLAH is a 24-year-old man from Darfur, Sudan, from the Zaghawa ethnicity. He arrived in Australia by boat in 2013 and was taken to Manus Island. He has been detained in Mantra Hotel in Preston, Melbourne, for one year. When he was a teenager in Sudan, he used to fix cars with his uncle. He wants to be a mechanical engineer.
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.
JON TJHIA is a radio-maker, artist and writer. As the Wheeler Centre’s senior digital editor, he collaborated with Behind the Wire to produce The Messenger. He’s a co-founder of Paper Radio and the Australian Audio Guide.
MICHAEL GREEN is a writer, radio-maker and producer. He was the host of The Messenger podcast, which won the 2017 Walkley Award for Radio/Audio feature. He travelled to Manus Island twice.
Two members of the Manus Recording Project Collective, who made recordings for how are you today (2018), are no longer detained by the Australian government. ABDUL AZIZ MUHAMAT is now in Geneva, where he was granted asylum by Switzerland. BEHROUZ BOOCHANI is now in Christchurch, where he was granted asylum by New Zealand. A third member of the collective, KAZEM KAZEMI, is still being detained at Kangaroo Point Central Hotel in Brisbane. Kazem decided not to make recordings for where are you today.