Prisoners they might be, but the detainees at notorious detention camp Guantanamo Bay have created beautiful artworks that are currently being exhibited at the President’s Gallery at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York in a show entitled ‘Ode to the Sea.’
But who owns the artwork? The government or the artist when the artist is a prisoner without rights. The exhibition became noticed by the U.S. military who have now suspended the transport of art for display out of the prison.
Co-curator of the exhibition, Erin Thompson, noted how “I did this show to try and help people see that detainees are human beings and give detainees another way to think about themselves: as artists. The authorities saw it as a risk and just slammed shut that possibility.” Artsy reports.
Fears that the artwork will be burnt are high as the U.S. military are concerned over possible secret messages hidden within the works and have decided that art created by the detainees is government property. This is despite the fact that art from the camp goes through censorship and review.
It comes at a time when treatment of prisoners and living conditions are reportedly worse than ever and the art classes they receive are a way of them keeping sane and feeling human. Guantanamo Bay was created under the administration of George W. Bush in 2002 to hold anyone suspected to be involved in terrorism during the war in Afghanistan. Under Obama’s presidency, the camp saw no new detainees and had its population drop from 242 to 41.