A Series of Boats 2b - The Fatal Sequence: a Boat Called the Barokah


 A Fatal Sequence: The Barokah

An illustration in which a young child, perhaps a toddler, drifts gracefully below the water's surface. The child holds on to a folded paper boat with one hand which floats above the surface, carrying the child along with it. The sky is solid black and the child is the sole figure in the vast blue sea.

[imagecaption] Artist: Mahmoud Salameh. [/imagecaption]

‘I will never forget the face of a man who said: ‘I want to come but I can’t swim.’ He knew it meant that one by one they would let go and be swallowed by the sea.’ 

Yaser Naseri, survivor of the Barokah


‘Refugees, as they entrust their lives to the angel of the ocean, reaffirm their decision to leave behind intolerable lives; to choose a chance for life on the sea over living death on dry land. In doing so they assume the responsibility to hope, a belief in the promise of the future. Despite the covenants entered into by Australia as a state priding itself on its civilised values, wishful sinking policies are a denial of that responsibility and that hopeful future for refugees.’

Suvendrini Perera, ‘The Fantasy of Wishful Sinking‘, 2016

The Janga is one of a trail of boats to have been lost in the perilous journey from Indonesia. Those on board face not only the dangers of the sea voyage, but the active efforts of governments to prevent their arrival on Australian shores, efforts that amplify the perils of the ocean.

Almost exactly a year after the Janga, on 17 December 2011,  a boat called the Barokah capsized south of Prigi Beach in Java. The boat carried 250 people seeking asylum, about 90 of whom were women and children. Most had fled Iran and Afghanistan. The majority of the 47 survivors spent hours in the water clinging to debris and were rescued by passing fishermen rather than state authorities.


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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are respectfully advised that this website contains images of and references to deceased persons.

All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.