Safdar Ahmed is an artist, writer and educator who lives and practices on the traditional lands of the Terramerrgal, Gadigal and Wangal peoples of what is otherwise known by its colonial name as Sydney. He works across a range of mediums, including drawing, graphic narratives, painting, musical performance and installation. Safdar’s art practice focusses on issues of representation and belonging, referencing personal history, graphic storytelling, cultural exegesis and Muslim tradition.
In June 2022 he will contribute to documenta fifteen, to take place in Kassel Germany.
In 2010 he completed his PhD with the Department of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Sydney. His dissertation, which linked the work of various Muslim reformist thinkers to contemporary paradigms of modernity, was published by IB Tauris beneath the title Reform and Modernity in Islam.
Before that, Safdar completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Sydney’s National Art School. He works largely in the mediums of drawing, comics and watercolour.
He is a founding member of the Refugee Art Project, for which he conducts art workshops with people of an asylum seeker or refugee background, in their studio at Thirning Villa, Ashfield. This organisation was founded to facilitate art workshops for people incarcerated in the Villawood detention centre, and to amplify their voices through public exhibitions and in self-published zines. The Refugee Art Project aims to deepen public understanding about the asylum seeker issue and the realities of Australia’s detention regime.
In 2015 Safdar won a Walkley Award in the Artwork category for his documentary webcomic, Villawood: Notes from an Immigration Detention Centre. That comic was expanded and adapted into the graphic novel, Still Alive, which was published in 2021 by Twelve Panels Press. You can see a video about the comic, in the context of his work with Refugee Art Project, here:
Safdar also plays in the heavy metal band Hazeen alongside his good friend Can Yalcinkaya. Here’s a short video documenting Hazeen‘s gig and communal zombie-cake eating performance, which took place in April 2017. The zombie is employed as a signifier for racist, Islamophobic hallucinations of an acopalyptic Muslim takeover, which Hazeen reverse engineered in a macabre zombie-brain eating ceremony. You can read about Safdar’s theory linking Orientalism/Islamophobia and the modern zombie here.