Poignant narratives from a refugee camp

‘Manus’ follows the lives of Iranian refugees in camps run by Australia

January 29, 2018 11:05 pm | Updated January 30, 2018 08:09 pm IST - Mini MuringatheriThrissur

 A scene from Manus staged at the International Theatre Festival of Kerala in Thrissur on Monday.

A scene from Manus staged at the International Theatre Festival of Kerala in Thrissur on Monday.

Manus and Nauru are island camps being run by the Australian government to imprison the refugees coming to their shores. The Iranian play Manus, directed by Nazanin Sahamizadeh, staged at the International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK) on Monday, follows the lives of eight Iranian refugees at these camps for more than four years. The refugees recall their experiences and reasons for leaving Iran. They struggled along the way to Australia, only to wind up at the offshore detention camps at Manus and Nauru. The play narrates their lives on the islands and their struggles to cope with the uncertainty over their future.

“Putting people far away from the eyes of others, from the media, and from the reach of those who could help them is gross injustice. They cut their voices in every possible way,” said Ms. Sahamizadeh.

‘A criminal’

The play deals with the violence in the camps and the deteriorating mental and physical health of the refugees. “From July 2013, Australia decided to punish people coming to their shores. If you left your country in the hope of reaching a safer place to live, irrespective of the reason why you left your country, you would be seen as a criminal. Ironically, few people in Iran are aware of Australia’s detention camps though Iranians constitute the major chunk of refugees on the islands,” said Ms. Sahamizadeh. “After all these years, the crisis is continuing and no news has been given on disasters happening there. May be art can bring those shunned from the centre back into focus.” “We see theatre as a great medium through which people can reach a new understanding of events, not by being fed the verdict but by seeing the reality of the situation. And there is no easy answer for the questions at hand,” the Iranian director said.

Manus came out of months of research and interviews with people who had lived in illegal detention centres at the island.

Festival ends

The 10th edition of ITFoK, held with a theme of ‘Reclaiming Margins,’ concluded here on Monday. Addressing the valedictory, Minister for Agriculture V.S. Sunil Kumar said the festival succeeded in providing relief to the marginalised. Thirty-three plays, including 16 international plays, 12 national plays and five Malayalam plays, were staged at the 10-day festival.

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