Eaten Fish and the Refugee Crisis: Cartoons, Brutality and Manus Island

Every story I said in my drawings is nothing but the truth.  I drew whatever happened to me.

— Eaten Fish, Iranian Cartoonist on Manus Island, September 9, 2016

Graphic depictions of cruelty come in an assortment of forms. The cartoon medium can convey the grotesque with brilliant effect, proving both witheringly caustic and poignant. The prints of Otto Dix emphasise the cripple, the mangled body, the state of disgust of a society suffering from the effect of a calamitous war.  His contemporary of Weimar Germany, George Grosz, was similarly ruthless as part of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement, insisting on dramatic grimness in conveying full effect.

What such artists insist upon is an unvarnished depiction of cruelty. In modern times, the notion of a caricature has usually made the front news because it supposedly mocks the Prophet in distasteful fashion.  Of far greater interest is the social critique provided by such depictions as those of Eaten Fish.

Eaten Fish, an Iranian refugee artist, is a three year resident on Manus Island with some illustrative capability. He remains in a facility that is yet another cog in the ghastly machine that is Australia’s offshore processing regime.  Every day, he explained to The Guardian, is much the same as the previous 800. He is being gradually numbed to death.

According to Researchers against Pacific Black Sites, a site given over to exposing the gruesome aspects in Australia’s refugee gulag,…

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