This piece comments on the shameful official treatment of refugees in offshore detention centres, known as The Medallion of Selfishness. It is my satirical response to two tragic incidents that have taken place on Manus Island, one of the sites that Australia uses to house asylum seekers. This piece is my reaction to the Dickensian situation of refugees who live on the island and the responsibility of the authorities for the people who are in custody. I believe the incidents on Manus Island were counter to modern values, particularly human dignity.
The Medallion of Selfishness is an ironic medallion awarded to the people who are directly or indirectly responsible in such incidents. The ironic message of this work is straightforward; according to the Oxford dictionary, a medallion is “made to commemorate an event or awarded as a distinction to someone”. The Medallion of Selfishness is a distinction for the inhumanity and barbarity that exists in the twenty-first century. In the Medallion of Selfishness, I have used an ancient Indo-European story from the Kelileh va Demneh book from 1429, in which all characters are animals. The story of “The Pelican, the Fish and the Crab” (Fig. 93) is an ancient story about migration, friendship and dishonesty. The story is about the many fish that live in a lake that is drying out. The crab, who is the mentor of the fish, suggests the idea of migrating to another lake, using the pelican for transport. In contrast with the crab and the fish, which have never left their lake, the pelican had the ability to fly and so is ‘knowledgeable’. The crab and the fish trust the pelican and so make a plan where the pelican will take
The middle of the Medallion displays a pelican with a human body that carries several fish. To make my idea clearer, I have drawn the fish with suitcases. In addition, I have added some fish skeletons in the pelican’s stomach. The condition of asylum seekers in Manus Island in general and the tragic death of Reza and Hamid reminded me of the Pelican’s story. They are both stories of people who left their homeland because of serious difficulties. They have no choice but to trust people smugglers. They dealt with dangerous environmental conditions and finally ended up worse off. This piece was made in bronze. I have used this material to make the medallion more physical and touchable to show how these incidents are close to us.