Ali Dorani: How cartoon save my life

Ali Dorani cartoon Image copyright Ali dorani

Cartoonist Ali Dorani bin japa from Iran wen im dey 21 years old before im trap for Australia Manus Island detention camp for four years - but tins change afta dem post im artwork online.

Dis na im tori for im own words and drawings.

For 2013, I comot from Iran. I no fit tell you why because e fit affect my family safety - but I no say my life bin dey in danger.

Image copyright Eatenfish

I bin stay for Indonesia for 40 days, and I try go Australia - I no say Australia na di best way for me to get safety.

One pesin wey dey smuggle pipo bin tell me say im fit cari us go Australia by boat.

Wen I bin see di boat, fear catch me say I go die. Na fishing boat wey don kpafuka and we dey like 150. And I no sabi swim.

Image copyright Eatenfish

Wen time reach to enta di boat, I tell myself say: "Na im be dis. If anytin just do dat boat like dis, I don die be dat."

Di waka reach 52 hours - rain dey fall and di ocean no normal. Fear catch me wella.

Di Australian navy bin jam us, cari us go Christmas Island - one detention centre wia Australia dey keep asylum seekers wey dey come inside boat.

I bin dey suffer from OCD [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder] for some years - but e come worse wen I reach Christmas Island.

Image copyright Eatenfish

Na so I begin draw to cope wit my OCD.

I don dey draw since I dey five years old - na one of di first tins wey I fit remember.

Drawing no really helep my OCD wey just dey worse evriday.

But I begin show my drawings to other detainees and some of di immigration officers, and pipo bin show interest for my cartoons.

I bin draw about my life dia - wetin happun wen I line up to collect food, how e be to use public toilets wey dirty.

Afta six months for Christmas Island, dem move me go Manus Island for January 2014. Dem handcuff us and I bin get five security officers around me.

Image copyright Eatenfish

E no be like di detention centre for Christmas Island. E be like wia you go keep chickens, pigs or sheep.

I bin feel like dead body wey dey force imsef to dey alive.

I no get any pencil or paper to draw for Manus Island - dem collect my pencils wen I comot for Christmas Island - though dem let me keep my drawings.

I bin chose EatenFish as my penname, because dem catch me from water like fish for Australian detention camp, troway me for Manus Island (di same way you go troway fish bones inside dustbin).

We no get internet dat time and I no get any hope say I go share my drawings wit world pipo.

Later, di Australian gofment come decide say dem go dey let us use internet for 45 minutes evri week.

Image copyright Eatenfish

For 1.5 years - I just dey send message to thousands of strangers. Nobodi reply.

One activist - Janet Galbraith - bin hear about my drawings come contact me ontop Facebook - she say she dey start gallery for Melbourne, and want make dem display one of my drawings.

E no easy to send her my foto dem because we no get scanner or camera.

Some pipo bin hide dia phones, though most of di camera no get high quality.

Later, I manage hide take foto of my drawing wit phone come send am to her.

Image copyright Eatenfish
Image example Di drawing wey dem sample for Melbourne

Afta Janet display my foto for di gallery, one man wey dey work for Manus Island bin see am, come tell Janet say im sabi me and im fit helep get my drawings out.

He snap foto of my drawings wit im iPad send am give Janet - na so news organisations begin publish my drawings.

I no feel say di publicity go helep me - I bin see am as chance to show my drawings to Australians, but I no see how e fit helep me comot from detention.

Oda Cartoonists wey dem don publish for di Washington Post, New Yorker and New York Times begin draw cartoons about EatenFish to free am.


Di International Cities of Refugee Network (Icorn), one Norwegian organisation wey dey helep writers and artists also begin work on my case. But I no believe say dem go helep my mata.

For late 2016, I go hunger strike for 22 days because oda detainees and workers bin dey harass me for Manus Island. By di time I end di strike, I weigh 43 kg.

Afta my hunger strike, dem move me go hospital for Papau New Guinea for almost three months. Wen I bin dey dia, I get message from Norway immigration department say dem go welcome me.

I no fit believe am.

Wen I enta di plane to Norway, I no fit stop to dey cry for some hours - I no dey quick cry like dat, but dis time I no fit stop. All di years wey I bin spend for detention just dey come my mind and I no fit just believe say na di end be dat.

Image copyright Ali dorani
Image example Ali Dorani for middle for one exhibition of im work for Norway

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