a.k.a. Ellie Shakiba
Elahe Zivardar, aka Ellie Shakiba, is an Iranian artist, architect, journalist and documentary filmmaker who was imprisoned by the Australian government in Nauru from 2013-2019. She was accepted as a refugee by the US in 2019 and currently lives and works in Washington DC.
During her detention in Nauru, she was highly active in shooting photos and videos to document the horrific treatment and conditions endured by asylum seekers and the local population. Her footage was used by ABC Australia, The Guardian, CNN and the #KidsOffNauru campaign organised by GetUp, World Vision Australia which succeeded in pressuring the Australian lawmakers to release children and their families from detention in Nauru in 2018-19.
Elahe received theatrical training and acting experience throughout her youth, and later received training in the visual arts during her Architecture degree at Shushtar Azad University in Iran. In Nauru, she used painting as a form of resistance to the injustice of detention there, and during these years began to paint what became her Border-Industrial Complex series, on which she continues to expand.
After leaving Nauru in 2019, Elahe has used her art to actively advocate for the freedom of the remaining detainees in Nauru and PNG, and against the adoption of similar refugee detention policies by other countries.
Elahe is currently co-director and executive producer of the documentary film Searching for Aramsayesh Gah, on the architecture of detention in Nauru. For this film, Elahe has created a virtual 3D model of the RPC3 detention centre on Nauru, in which she was held for almost 3 years. This film also features never-before-seen footage and interviews with asylum seekers filmed by Elahe in Nauru and is due for release in 2023.
Elahe is also currently producing a short animation film depicting refugee women’s experiences at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre in the UK, in collaboration with Oxford University, which is due for release in 2022.
She is active as an advisor to international refugee rights campaigns including Amnesty International’s Game Over Campaign in Australia, Human Rights Watch and Detention Action’s UK campaign against offshore detention in Rwanda, and Preventable Surprises, a US based organisation that aims to raise investor awareness against the abuses of the Border Security Industry against migrants and asylum seekers.
Elahe also continues to contribute to international media coverage of refugee rights issues, writing pieces for The Guardian newspaper, openDemocracy, and via her media appearances on ABC (Australia) and Channel 4 (UK), as well as at seminars, conferences and online dialogues internationally.
Elahe also regularly writes and contributes to academic articles and books including most recently the Posthuman Glossary, Southerly, Australian Book Review, and The Big Anxiety: Taking Care of Mental Health in Times of Crisis.