‘Witness’ was made for Station 6 of the annual “Stations of the Cross” exhibition at Wesley Uniting Church, Perth, and curated by Claire Bushby.

Station 6: Veronica Wipes Jesus’ Face

As Jesus struggled up the hill to his death, bleeding, bowed down by the weight of the cross and taunted by the crowd, a woman stepped towards him. She was powerless to save Jesus’ life but she used what she had, a cloth, to wipe the blood and sweat from his face and to do what she could to witness and support him.

In 2013 thousands of refugees were condemned by Australia to indefinite detention on Manus and Nauru. Their suffering still continues under worsening conditions. Ten have died. In Australia, an increasing number of people, mostly women, do what we can to witness and support the refugees. We are inspired by the refugees’ own peaceful and creative actions. We cannot directly intervene and free them from offshore detention but we can continue to do as Veronica did and use whatever means we have to act for humanity and love.

My activism started with writing daily letters of protest to the Prime Minister. After a time I began standing on the street, holding a placard. People who come up to me often express horror at offshore detention and ask ‘but what can we do?’

I have made this work to give people space and means to express their feelings about the refugees imprisoned on Manus and Nauru. I hand-wove plain facecloths and invited small groups to sit together, sharing and stitching their responses onto the cloths. The physicality of stitching can express a spontaneous response more directly than drawing or writing. The cloths bear not the imprint of the refugees’ faces, but the impulse of empathy and humanity that Australian people feel for the refugees and that they want to express. As long as the refugees remain imprisoned this work is in progress.

Details of the entire exhibition here.