We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Untitled #19 (from The Arrivals series)



Khadim Ali

Pakistan, Australia

1978 –

Alternate image of Untitled #19 (from The Arrivals series) by Khadim Ali
Alternate image of Untitled #19 (from The Arrivals series) by Khadim Ali
Alternate image of Untitled #19 (from The Arrivals series) by Khadim Ali
Alternate image of Untitled #19 (from The Arrivals series) by Khadim Ali
Alternate image of Untitled #19 (from The Arrivals series) by Khadim Ali
Alternate image of Untitled #19 (from The Arrivals series) by Khadim Ali
  • Details

    Other Title
    The Arrivals #19
    Media categories
    Mixed media , Drawing
    Materials used
    gouache, ink and gold leaf on wasli paper
    110.0 x 80.0 cm
    Purchased with funds provided by the Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2021
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Khadim Ali. Courtesy Milani Gallery

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Khadim Ali

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Khadim Ali is an internationally renowned Afghan Hazara artist, born in Pakistan and currently based in Western Sydney. Working across painting, drawing and textiles, Ali creates intricate works that incorporate imagery and ideas drawn from history literature, mythology, and politics to explore and interrogate contemporary events and his own encounters of persecution and displacement. Ali studied miniature painting at the National College of Arts, Lahore and calligraphy at Tehran University, Iran, the influence of which is extant in his finely detailed work.

    In the series from which Untitled #19 (from the Arrivals series) 2017 derives, Ali correlates the present status of refugees and diasporic peoples with historic narratives of oppression, struggle, and displacement. In the intricately painted scene, demons crowd the deck of a small wooden boat as it is tossed about in a violent and turbulent ocean. Like all the devil-like figures that populate much of Ali’s work, these characters derive from the 10th Century Persian epic poem the Shahnameh or ‘Book of Kings’ (c977-1010) and can embody both good and evil. Here they appear abject and desperate as the furious sea closes in around the tiny vessel. The horizon line is no longer visible in this hostile and overwhelming environment. The figures wear bright orange life jackets as they each look out in different directions across the vast ocean. One demon clinging to the billowing red sail points ahead towards a distant but unseen land. Ali presents a devastating account of the plight of refugees, a story of danger, dispossession, racial vilification and of how many refugees simply seeking safety have been demonised.

    ‘War produces innumerable wounds, leaving scars of destruction that are carried through generations. It destroys and deconstructs societies and disrupts the sphere of time. In its displacement by war, the human body becomes the site of trauma and loss. It is exposed to harsh environments and a torrid political atmosphere. This displaced body has a name: refugee.

    The effects of the refugee’s fragmented journey differ from person to person. But in almost every case the inner spirit is numbed, forcing memories to be forgotten. The smell of home, the scent of love, the delicacy of identity and the fluency of language are erased by the trauma of loss.

    In our time, political circumstance and misrepresentation has painted these displaced souls as being beyond humanity. Even though they are merely attempting to escape the catastrophe of war, they are portrayed as demons (that is as beings other than human) who threaten the social order. In doing this, our society represses the forlorn hope of human beings who have endured the very limits of survival, ignoring that they seek little more than peace. What is at stake in how we treat them is not just their humanity, but ours.

    The Arrivals seeks to give vision to this contemporary theatre of the absurd.’

    - Khadim Ali 2017

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

Other works by Khadim Ali

See all 11 works