Baaqiy Ghazali Thinks About Home: Open Letter From The Artist On Her Work

Malaysian born, Melbourne-based visual artist and illustrator Baaqiy Ghazali participates in the fourth annual Home exhibition in Victoria, for artists with asylum seeker and refugee backgrounds.

Sacred Place by Baaqiy Ghazali

Home aims to celebrate diversity and encourage people with these experiences to speak up. The works explore a range of ideas and issues, from sustainability to identity, featuring six artists including Baaqiy.

Here, Baaqiy pens an open letter detailing the inspirations behind her work as well as her struggles with gender dysphoria and transitioning, which are present in the exhibition.

“My work is definitely a representation of my experience and state of mind at a certain point of my life. From coming to Australia, transitioning and applying for a protection visa from the Australian Government. A lot of it centres around anxiety, the fear of what’s to come and not knowing, feeling unsafe and lonely, fear of rejection and abandonment.

Talking about my transitioning and my asylum seeker status is something that I am not fully comfortable at doing, mostly because I went through most of it alone, I figured a lot of things out alone because I have no one in my life that can guide me through transitioning or seeking for protection from a foreign government.

This has always been the case with my growing up, I didn’t have anyone in my life that could help me understand why I was feeling the way I felt, especially about gender dysphoria. I wished I had an adult in my life that I could talk to back then, I had no one. All I knew about transgender women back then (from growing up in Malaysia) was that they are 'sex workers' and 'bound for hell'. The media sensationalise news about transgender women being arrested on the streets or in nightclubs. All I knew about a transgendered life was that it was an impossible one.

credHiltonStone Baaqiy Ghaz
Image © Hilton Stone

I never had the opportunity to fully live or develop my character or be a normal child because in every stage of my life, it has always been about surviving; from bullies, from being ostracised, from showing weakness. I never got to feel like I was part of anything, never understanding why I am the way I am and why my start at life was harder than a lot of people.

Art is something that I was naturally good at. Since I was very young, I was always known for my talent and I was respected for that, and in turn, I cherished this talent that I have because it gave people something else to focus on, not that I was effeminate or different.

I share my stories through art because it is a medium where I can be honest about my life and what I have experienced. I always thought about the little kid in me that wished there was someone out there that could help make sense of all these feelings, and I hope that talking about my life through art can give someone out there what I didn’t have as a child.

Being a transgender woman and an asylum seeker is part of who I am, but not all that I am. I however considered them a huge achievement in my life because I fought to be myself and fought for my safety and my right to feel as equal as everyone else.”

Baaqiy is exhibiting in Home at the City of Greater Dandenong’s Walker Street Gallery until 2 November.


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