WHEN teenager Alidad Afzali was locked up in detention centres, he would meticulously draw the basins and taps in his room to keep his mind focused.
Coming from the Hazara ethnic minority in Afghanistan, Alidad and his family had no choice but to flee the terrorists and Taliban that pursued them, moving to Pakistan when he was four.
Safety in a big city among the mountains didn’t last long when the Taliban arrived in Pakistan.
Being the first-born son in his family, and therefore a target for terrorists who kill the breadwinners, his family went to lengths to get him to safety in 2012 via an overloaded boat from Indonesia to Australia.
The trip was treacherous as Alidad prayed for his life amid raging storms rattling the tiny boat. They were intercepted by the Australian navy, and Alidad was locked up in Christmas Island, Western Australia and Tasmania before being sent to Ballarat.
Now 18 and living with a kind of adoptive family in Ballarat, Alidad’s future – while still uncertain – is looking much brighter for the talented artist.
He has just won Most Outstanding Across All Media in the Next Generation school-leavers’ exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat.
His portraiture work is a spine-tingling example of the horrors refugees go through. His three-piece works depict his friend Safar who was shot dead by terrorists back home, his friend Azi in Ballarat, and a self-portrait currently exhibited in a Lydiard Street shopfront.
“They are the emotional effects of what I have experienced, what my friends have experienced,” he said of the works.
“The paintings I did were quite emotional. It was really hard for me to express myself.”
Alidad said an art teacher at Mount Clear coached him from simply replicating what he saw, to creating expressive and powerful pieces.
“Over the years my style has changed. When I started painting I was very careful and tried to capture my subject but now I don’t care.”
Unfortunately, unless Alidad is successful in securing a scholarship, due to government rules he will not be able to attend university with his school friends from Mount Clear College.
Regardless, he will also have to work to support his family back home.
Alidad’s art can be seen at the Next Generation exhibition until March 27.