2022 - Winner
Safdar Ahmed’s extraordinary debut, Still Alive, is a deeply personal and critical account of the artist’s work within Australia’s immigration detention system and his encounters with the wrongfully imprisoned. This bold and ambitious graphic novel is an engrossing read from panel to panel, with searing and unforgettable images rendered in the author’s distinctive visual style. The writing and reflections are illuminating and engaging, and indicative of his deep commitment to justice.
Still Alive demonstrates how comics can be a sophisticated medium for narrative, self-reflexivity and reportage. The book is profoundly ethical in the way it centres the testimonies of people stripped of their humanity by the state. Alongside retellings of their complex histories, the author directly includes artistic artefacts created by a vulnerable population. This book rigorously examines the great lie which continues to scaffold Australia’s multiculturalism: that asylum seekers and refugees need to be made an example of.
This year’s shortlist is a thrilling showcase of the depth of excellence of contemporary Australian literature. Ranging in form, these literary works provide considered and vociferous commentary about the challenges we must urgently address and reflect on as a multicultural nation. The judging panel is delighted to award the prize to Still Alive for its vision, ambition and achievement. Ahmed’s work stands out as an example of brilliant storytelling created with and through community, a labour of generosity, and love. It is an unflinching critique of policy and discourse that demonstrates the power of art.