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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.



How are you Today, 2018
Manus Recording Project Collective



24.07.18 (Play)(Pause)(...)
Aziz, last week, watch­ing the World Cup final with the guys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Samad, last week, at boxing prac­tice

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

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

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Shamin­dan, a couple of days ago, at Loren­gau market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Shamin­dan, on Sunday, at church

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Kazem, on the week­end, shop­ping at Loren­gau market

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

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

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Samad, this morn­ing, lis­ten­ing to rubab music

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Aziz, on the weekend, cooking kebabs for his friends

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Kazem, on Sunday, buying electric guitar strings

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

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

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

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Shamindan, yesterday, on the local bus to town

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

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Samad, on the weekend, going for a walk

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

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

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Shamindan, last night, waiting in the mess for dinner

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

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

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

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Kazem, on Saturday, taking a shower

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

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Shamindan, yesterday, on a boat to Rara Island

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

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

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

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

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

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Shamindan, yesterday, discussing recent suicide attempts in the camp

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

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

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Kazem, on Monday, cleaning the oven and making coffee

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Behrouz, last night, in the kitchen

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Shamindan, yesterday, speaking about the last five years

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Farhad, on Thursday, walking along the beach and into the forest

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Samad, last night, speaking about moving to Port Moresby

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Aziz, yesterday, convincing other guys to sign a petition

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Shamindan, the day before yesterday, speaking about losing loved ones

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Kazem, yesterday, improvising classical guitar in his room

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Behrouz, on Wednesday, talking with friends about Australian politics and soccer

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Farhad, on Thursday, cooking, listening to Kurdish music and singing along

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Samad, yesterday morning, talking about his studies and listening to music

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Aziz, last week, listening to Native American flute music before bed

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Kazem, yesterday, clipping his nails – his neighbour in the background

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Shamindan, yesterday, in his room recovering from a migraine

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Behrouz, today, speaking to Kazem

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Farhad, yesterday, following a group of friends visiting from East Lorengau camp as they're refused entry at Hillside House, then West Lorengau House – before being allowed to enter Hillside House

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Samad, yesterday, watching Baaghi 2 on his day off

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Behrouz, on the weekend, visiting his friend Chris from Manus who has a new baby

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Shamindan, yesterday, speaking about the US resettlement process

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Kazem, yesterday, talking with Behrouz about his book, his film and the award he's just won

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Aziz, the day before yesterday, chatting with his friend Obida, the only Syrian man on Manus

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Samad, yesterday, trying to study while recovering from a cold

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Farhad, yesterday, walking around Hillside House – talking with friends and local workers

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Aziz, last night, talking with Abdulla about the soccer game they won against West

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Shamindan, yesterday, in the new self-service kitchen at West Haus with his friend Sri, who is preparing breakfast

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Kazem, yesterday, watching videos from the day's swimming with friends

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Behrouz, the day before yesterday, playing soccer

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Farhad, yesterday, listening to – and chatting with – kids cutting grass in the garden behind Hillside House

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Samad, this morning, on his balcony listening to the comings and goings of Port Moresby

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Kazem, yesterday, talking to Farhad about his health issues at the medical unit

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Aziz, yesterday, speaking to Reilly Kanamon, a journalist with NBC Manus

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Shamindan, today, at the medical clinic checkpoint in East Lorengau Transit Centre

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Behrouz, last night, on a phone call with photographer Hoda Afshar

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Farhad, yesterday, taking a bus to the music hall – to record vocals for his new song

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Samad, at three o'clock this morning, home from work and lying in bed, listening to music