Set Me Free (Jalal Mahamede)


Judge: What’s your name?
Accused: Human.
Judge: Who are your parents?
Accused: Neither mother nor father.
Judge: Place of birth?
Accused: Paradise that has turned to ruins.
Judge: Family members?
Accused: Clean air that has been polluted and a boat that’s been swallowed by the sea.

Judge: Your height?
Accused: Once, I was so close to God; now I am as tall as the shadow of my destiny on the ground.
Judge: Your weight?
Accused: Not so light that I can fly and touch freedom, but not so heavy as to be trapped in this cage.
Judge: Your colour?
Accused: Just Black. The colour that is hated in this county.
Judge: Eyes?
Accused: The colour of rain that falls from the sky.
Judge: Your body?
Accused: Half my body is from dust and the other half is from another world.

Judge: Plaintiff?
Accused: Australia.
Judge: The name of your lawyer?
Accused: God.
Judge: What is your crime?
Accused: Asking for help. 
Judge: Is that all?  
Accused: It is. 

Judge: What punishment was issued to you?
Accused: Six years on Nauru and Christmas Island and two years in an Australian detention centre. Still, I am in detention.
Judge: Who was your accomplice in this sin?
Accused: The mind that led me to this country.
Judge: Are you scared?
Accused: Very much.
Judge: What are you afraid of?
Accused: Being trapped in the camp for the rest of my life.

Judge: Do you miss someone? 
Accused: Yes.
Judge: Who?
Accused: God.
Judge: Has anyone visited in these eight years?
Accused: Only God.
Judge: Do you have any complaints?
Accused: No… But…
Judge: But what?
Accused: Isn’t the sentence too heavy for the crime?

Judge: Do not exaggerate! Do you have proof that you are innocent?
Accused: Yes.
Judge: What is your proof?
Accused: Two drops of tears. 
Judge: Do you have a guarantor?
Accused: Only God.

Set Me Free

Set Me Free is a musical expression of twelve of Jalal’s spoken poems which revolve around themes of justice and freedom. The album is a collaboration between nine-years-detained refugee poet and artist Jalal Mahamede, working via zoom from his detention cell, and Australian Art Music Award finalist Keyna Wilkins, along with 19 guest musicians. It was made during the 2021 Sydney COVID lockdown, with each musician recording themselves improvising in their homes, curated by Keyna Wilkins and sound engineered and mastered by Matt Stewart from A Sharp Studios. The album is a companion to My Tears Will Calm The Sun, a book of Jalal’s illustrated poetry, forthcoming from Tangerine Books in 2021. 

Set Me Free will be launched at Lazybones Lounge in Marrickville on Wednesday 17th November. Buy tickets here! 

Jalal Mahamede is an Ahwazi Arab refugee poet and artist currently working from his prison cell in Brisbane. He has been detained by the Australian government for nine years for arriving by boat and seeking protection. He has never been charged or tried. He draws from his personal experience to express his moods, feelings and visions through art and language, influenced by his late father Kazem Mahamede, a renowned travelling poet and photographer. During his long-term confinement, in often horrific conditions, Jalal has experienced serious mental health issues, as well as suffering a vicious attack on Nauru, but he has nevertheless managed to create heartbreakingly haunting, yet beautiful words and drawings inspired by his detention experience. His work reveals the depths of his heart and mind and his vision of humanity. Find more Jalal at his website

Keyna Wilkins is a pioneering Australian/British composer-musician. She was one of three finalists for the Australian Art Music Awards for Individual Excellence in 2021 and 2018 (APRA/AMCOS). As an innovative soloist, she has been heralded by UK’s Jazz Journal as a “powerhouse player”. She has written over sixty art music compositions which have been published by Wirripang and has released nine albums of original music. Wilkins is an Associate Artist with the Australian Music Centre and has five tunes in the Australian Jazz Realbook. As an innovative solo artist performing her own works/improvisations/reinterpretations, and leader of cutting-edge chamber groups, her music is characterised by a fascination with astronomy, Indigenous First Nations culture, jazz, dance forms and intuitive improvisation. She also writes music for films and theatre including short film “Remote Access” which won Best Short Film at the Imagine This International Film Festival in New York 2019, and her compositions are featured on ABC. While classically trained in UK, Germany and Sydney Conservatorium, she has branched into jazz, flamenco, live theatre and has studied intuitive conceptual improvisation with Tibetan Buddhist musician Tenzin Cheogyal. For more info see