Anahita Diba says art is a lifeline that helped her endure several years on Nauru, where she was sent as a teenager as part of Australia's offshore processing regime for asylum seekers.
Inspired by her years there, Ms Diba's artwork is part of an exhibition in Brisbane called Global Need for Healing that coincides with Refugee Week, an annual event ending on Saturday.
"Art helped me to overcome my trauma. It helped me a lot. It was the only hope and tool I had," says Ms Diba, now aged 25.
The exhibition, at the Sonder Studio Gallery, features 12 artists from around the world, including four who were in Australia's offshore centres.
Ms Diba says she started drawing with pen and paper on Nauru before she was able to access a brush and paint. She then ran art classes for kids in the camp.
"I was not able to do anything else, it was the only thing I was capable of doing, for myself and for my development," she says.
One of Ms Diba's pieces is inspired by a psychologist who helped those on Nauru. The painting, titled Dear Friend, is marked by gold paint, flowers and birds, representing a worthy friendship, peace and freedom.
The exhibition's curator, Gabby Sutherland, says it's a time to heal.
"We want people to connect with refugees suffering in limbo in refugee camps, and with those who have had their lives ripped apart and now trying to recover," she says.
The exhibition also features work by Iranian cartoonist Ali Dorani - pseudonym Eaten Fish - who was sent to Manus Island.
"I think I have the right to say that art actually saved me," Mr Dorani says.
"I started drawing cartoons in detention, to try and control my illness, and eventually, cartoons saved my life. I genuinely believe that art can help bring peace and that I have to look after my art and respect that," he said.
Australia's previous government regularly credited its offshore processing policies for protecting the country's borders and for helping stop asylum seekers taking hazardous boat journeys.
Another artist who was in an offshore centre, Elahe Zivardar, says her bright purple-coloured painting of dancing women depicts the injustice, cruelty, and discrimination inflicted on women in the Nauru facility.
"Purple pain embodies the situation of women who have fled from oppression, including myself, only to be subjected to other forms of oppression against women. It is my hope that we also find other forms of truth and justice," she says.
Ms Zivardar, who has since settled in the United States, told AAP her time on Nauru still haunts but that it also provides inspiration to create artwork.
Australian Associated Press
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