Growing Inside a Glass Bottle: Azizeh Astaneh

Azizeh Astaneh

“It’s kind of interesting how no one sees how strongly arts can help asylum seekers, and people like me who are living in strange, funny types of visas. They think that other things are more important. Whereas, I see that art has played a vital and important role in my life, not just my life but in other lives as well […] I see myself as a voice, not just [for] my experience. It has not been my experience only, it’s been the experience that I have shared with many others[…]

“I’m growing, but inside a glass bottle. I don’t really exist, I don’t really live in the community. There’s a glass barrier between me and the community to live my life to the full[est]. And to be honest, I don’t think I deserve it, just because I’ve saved my life, I’ve tried to save my life. That’s something that every human being would do if their life is being threatened.”

Azizeh Astaneh, Melbourne-based visual artist and graphic designer, was interviewed for our Creative Lives Project. She is involved with MAFA, Melbourne Artists for Asylum Seekers, where she has curated five main exhibitions since 2013. She is an Iranian asylum seeker, and spent 6 months in detention centres when she first arrived in Australia. In this interview, she talks about the barriers she has faced as an artist in Australia, as well as the support she has received from volunteers and organisations helping asylum seekers.

Learn more about Azizeh and her art here.


Video by Maylei Hunt, a social documentary photographer specialising in dance and portraiture with a community and arts focus.

Interview by Margaret Mayhew, Melbourne-based academic and artist. She has a PhD in Gender and Cultural Studies as well as undergraduate degrees in Science, Visual Arts and Art History. She is a teacher, trainer, speaker, and community engagement expert.