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Bashar’s gallery – Iraqi artist’s work reflects refugee experience

1 July 20202 comments

For Iraqi artist and refugee Bashar Yousif paint and canvas is a form of storytelling.

His work is informed by the trauma and displacement he has suffered at the hands of Islamic State and the other extremists groups that brought terror and death to his homeland.,

“Most of my artwork has a message. It is very much influenced by my journey as a refugee. But also by my arrival in Australia and the opportunities that has offered my family,” Bashar said.

“Each piece has a story,” he says pointing to a triptych on his living room wall which shows the staging points of a refugee’s journey,” he said.

“The experience of war and being a refugee has definitely influenced my art,” Bashar said.

One particularly poignant piece is slightly confusingly titled ‘Not for Sale’. It reflects the horror of ISIS buying and selling Christian women. It is for sale.

Another piece is a mix of Arabic and indigenous Australian motifs which Bashar says reflects his own real-life and artistic journey from fear and violence to safety.

“It also recognises all of the people in Australia and the government, all who have helped us so much,” Bashar said.

Another canvas reflects Bashar’s first experience of Anzac Day and yet another is a view of native trees growing beyond his back yard fence.

In Iraq Bashar worked as an accountant but his passion was carving decorative images in stone which would then be used on building facades, stairways and walls.

Often, he would carve the Lord’s Prayer using beautiful calligraphy. Since arriving in Australia, he has painted the words of the prayer on canvas in the ancient Arabic language of Kulfi.

Bashar and his family came to Australia in 2013 fleeing the war in Iraq.

They were the target of threats from Islamic extremist groups in the city of Nineveh, in northern Iraq.  

“They told us ‘If you don’t obey what we say, we will kill you’,” Bashar said.

“Before ISIS there were other groups trying to make Christians leave. Islamic extremists started bombing school buses,” he said.

Forced to flee, the family took a 20-hour bus trip to relative safety in Turkey.

“We spent eight months in Turkey before we came to Australia. But we were lucky. There are other families who have been living in limbo in Turkey for four years,” Bashar said.

“Things depend on the UN. I think because we had young kids, we were prioritised for resettlement,” he said.

“We are very happy and grateful to be in Australia”.

The family arrived under the federal government’ Humanitarian Settlement Program and settled in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

Since arriving in Australia, Bashar’s work has featured in several exhibitions, including at the City of Whittlesea and Parade College and several have been purchased by the council and local businesses.

An upcoming exhibition was cancelled because of the COVID-9 crisis but Bashar’s works can be bought online.

His contact email is: