Although inmates at Guantanamo Bay's detention center can't see the Cuban coast only meters away from the jail, sensory deprivation also causes the imagination to wander, as shown by the BBC's recent article on some of the Gitmo's detainees artwork.
After President Obama's inauguration, officials at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp began offering art classes, and the glimpse into the work of some detainees is, naturally, fascinating.
Tim Fitzsimons presented some of the first images from the library's display in Slate, and offered the following analysis:
"It's still against the rules to photograph and speak to the prisoners, so we may never know if the beaches, lanterns, and Middle Eastern lanes of the drawings convey the inner life of the average prisoner. But for now, this handful of drawings is one of the few views of what life is like behind the barbed wire of Guantanamo Bay's detention center."
The images shared with the public are surprisingly benign. Do the detainees really channel most of their creative energy into quiet landscapes filled with dunes and minarets? Or are we only seeing the tip of the iceberg, with violent, personal imagery hidden below the surface and unreleased?
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If detainees' previous creative efforts are any indication, the picture might not be so rosy. Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak was published in 2007 by the University of Iowa Press, and was a far cry from the landscapes and golden teapots shown in the library. These poems, while carefully screened by national security officials, included the sort of bleak imagery that may have been left out of the display of paintings. "Death Poem," by Jumah al Dossari, is a direct critique of indefinite detention, bearing lines such as "this soul which has suffered at the hands of the "protectors of peace."
Nevertheless, some of the images reflect considerable skill; Fitzsimons recalls a guard admitting that the detainees have a lot of free time.