Elyas Alavi’s practice is interdisciplinary bridging elements from poetry to visual arts, from archive to everyday events with the intention to address issues around displacement, trauma, memory and sexual identity. 

        He reflects upon his background as a displaced Hazara (a marginalized ethnic group originally from Afghanistan), and use his particular experiences and contemplations as an epistemological model for the dislocation of people and collective memories. 

        Alavi graduated from a Master of Visual Arts at the University of South Australia in 2016, and has exhibited at Mohsen Gallery (Tehran), Robert Kananaj (Toronto), IFA (Kabul),  Firstdraft (Sydney), as well as Ace Open, Felt Space, Nexus Arts (all Adelaide).

        watch elyas’ Salam Khoobi/Hello, How are you?︎︎︎

elyas’ project

Not just a shadow 

INSTALLATION VIEW, Image credit: Janelle Low

        Not Just a Shadow by Elyas Alavi uses painting and poetry, realised in neon, to explore the history of Afghan Cameleers in Australia and the complex emotions of memory, displacement, loss and mourning. It draws on the artist’s recent investigations into the forgotten history of Afghan cameleers and their long relationship with the First Nations peoples of Australia. This line of enquiry is underscored by Alavi’s experience as an Afghan-born Hazara man now living in Tarntanya (Adelaide), and the sense of solidarity felt with those who have been similarly displaced by conflict.

        Elyas’ project can be seen at The Substation as part of Hyphenated Biennial 2021–2022︎︎︎
        Elyas’ video work was part of the Digital Program 2020︎︎︎

As part of a work-in-progress work shown at The threads we hold together, Alavi presented a visual reflection on the process of experimentation and creation of Not Just a Shadow.


Most of the footage in the video is from Alavi’s recent trip to Painted Desert in South Australia and visiting Afghan Cemetery in Oodnadatta where five Afghan Cameleers have been buried. 

Realised across painting and neon, the works presented as part of the Hyphenated Biennial are, at times, biting turns of phrase lifted from his poems, and at others, introspective and suggestive mark-making. The folkloric song in this video is sung by an Afghan Hazara man in Kabul and recorded by Alavi’s friend Asieh Rahimi.

Not Just a Shadow is supported by Arts South Australia.

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