By David Southwell
The most inspiring view of Melbourne is not to be seen from the observation deck of the Rialto Tower or any other tourist lookout, but from the confines of a small room in a detention centre.
It was there that Naser Moradi painted a Melbourne as fantastic as the City of Oz, where gleaming towers reached up to fluffy white clouds in brilliant blue sky and a welcoming pathway, with a flag-themed flowerbed of Victoria, funnels in outsiders through a luxuriant garden.
Naser is an asylum seeker who has been held for more than three years in the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation centre, where since 2017 he has been regularly visited by Banyule Network Uniting Church member David Landis-Morse.
“For Naser, Melbourne is a magical place. He is so excited that one day he might get to see it, so it’s a dream-like vision of Melbourne,” David said of Naser’s artwork.
Naser’s vision of Melbourne and other works the self-taught artist has produced in detention are on display at the Scots’ Uniting Church in Heidelberg. They have also been a feature of worship services.
“Naser wants his paintings to be shared with people, that’s really important to him as part of his psychological wellbeing,” David said.
“He is trying to express a rich inner world. Naser’s a very quiet, shy individual when you talk to him. Big on hugs, but very quiet.”
A member of the persecuted Hazara ethnic minority, Naser managed to leave Afghanistan to work in Dubai before a long journey to Australia, where he arrived by boat in 2012.
“Naser will tell you of being forced off buses and seeing people killed in Afghanistan,” David said.
“He doesn’t tell these stories with any degree of remarkability because that was just his life.”