About the project

Designer Freedom

Designer Freedom is a not for profit project where the artists receive 100% of the profits, after costs.

The artists involved in this project are female artists, who have been detained on Nauru indefinitely, by the Australian Government. They have been there for five years and have suffered extreme and debilitating mental anguish from the living conditions, the uncertainty and the brutality of the unsafe and demoralising incarceration. One of the artist has been on Nauru since she was 15 years of age.

Creating art is an important avenue of self-expression for these women. They are able to convey personal and private stories that are often difficult to verbalise. The women have had extended periods of depression, finding it impossible to concentrate or participate in any activity. They value the benefits associated with creating works of art and endeavour to keep going, even when they feel like giving up. What is extraordinary about these women is not that they have a story to tell, but they are able to dig deep and continue to find the will to tell it.

The process of making the magnificent scarves, is one of collaboration. The women work with an Australian artist, united with these women through friendship, first built on Nauru. They have maintained the friendship through the use of social media and are able to get photographs of their artworks out of Nauru through the use of technology. The photographs are manipulated by the Australian artist and converted into fabric. The process is reflective of the lack of access to the outside world and limited materials available to the women, contrasted by a period where isolation and the shroud of secrecy can no longer be hidden by the jailers, because the use of new technology can break through the silence and expose the truth.

These women thought they were escaping an archaic way of life, but have found themselves in an equally archaic, punitive environment of incarceration. The artist’s intention is to have creative autonomy in a harsh and restricted environment, to express their thoughts through the production of art, to keep their minds active and to find purpose through story telling. They are politically aware and constantly reminded of the Australian Government’s strategy to dehumanise, misrepresent, malign and shut them out of public discussion. They are striped of liberties when they speak out and are threatened with jail and cancellation of their applications for settlement in third country options if they do speak out. Their artwork creates a bridge between them and the rest of the world, looking on in confusion.

The conversion of the artworks into scarves provides an avenue for those wearing them to engender hope and to raise greater public awareness about the treatment of people seeking asylum and refugees suffering at the hands of Australian authorities. More importantly, the wearer simply facilitates the humanisation of innocent people by displaying the beauty of the women’s creations as a conversation piece. The scarves can trigger a simple comment, informing others of the artist’s incarceration, or a deeper conversation in order to challenge and educate the wider community and to harnesses the power of artistic and cultural productions in the struggle for refugee rights and social justice.