Sha Sarwari fled Afghanistan as a teenager and journeyed to Australia by boat in 2000.
He settled in Brisbane, started a family, and became an Australian citizen in 2006, but said he still felt out of place.
“Even for me, living in Australia for the past 15 years, I haven’t found my foothold in my life here,” he said.
“When I see my fellow refugees … it renews my memory that I don’t belong here, I have to go back one day, so it doesn’t let me settle.”
His black and white video, called Suspended, is part of an exhibition of artworks by refugees opening in Brisbane on Saturday night.
It shows an origami boat made of newspaper drifting on the ocean, going forwards and backwards in an infinite loop.
“Suspended in a wave, going backwards and forwards and backwards and there’s no ending is to do with my own memory,” he said.
“Also to do with the people that are living in detention centres for the past few years now in Manus Island and Nauru, places like that, it’s been mentioned to them time and time again that you have to go back, you have to go back.
“In the media, they say that if you come by boat you won’t be settled here, you will never end up in Australia, so this narrative has made me and my fellow refugees like they don’t feel settled.”
He used a newspaper boat to also critique media coverage on asylum seekers.
“Going with the policy of the government most of the time, not resisting, not telling the truth, not putting a light on the issue from both sides, and dehumanising the refugees,” he said.
The exhibition also features prints of works by award-winning Manus Island cartoonist Mr Eaten Fish, and Brisbane-based Syrian refugee Murhaf Obeid, who created a gold-leafed oil painting of Christ’s Last Supper while he was in Lebanon for five years waiting to come to Australia.
Mr Obeid arrived in Brisbane just three weeks ago.
Curator Moozhan Kheiri said he hoped the exhibition would help keep up public discussion about refugees.
“I think it’s important to talk about the issues, not just refugees in the detention centres but also here in Australia, their life, their everyday life, their religion, the suffering they go through even here now,” she said.
Mr Sarwari said refugees who had come to Australia by sea were stamped as “boat people”, and became the victims of negative headlines and discrimination, even by other migrants who had come by plane.
“It’s a kind of stigma attached to being boat people,” Mr Sarwari said.
“I don’t care, I tell whoever I meet that I came by boat, but there are people who want to hide that.
“It’s refugees that say no to war, no to violence, no to killing … they run away towards peace, so the countries that are on the side of peace, they should welcome [refugees] and make a peaceful force out of them.”