Djamel Ameziane was imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay from 2002 to 2013. Like the rest of the detainees there, he was never charged with a crime or given a trial, and according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, his time at Gitmo included "torture, abuse, and other human rights violations." Above is a bucolic seaside scene Ameziane painted in watercolors three years before his release.
The untitled painting was displayed at a pop-up exhibition hosted by the CCR at the Brooklyn Public Library last week, Hyperallergic notes, alongside other Ameziane watercolors, photos of Guantanamo by Debi Cornwall, and firsthand Gitmo illustrations by Molly Crabapple. CCR staff attorney Omar Farah told Hyperallergic that the show is part of a "conscious decision to attack an old problem"—presumably, the lack of humanity afforded to Guantanamo prisoners—"in a new way."
The other watercolor Ryan Wong highlights at Hyperallergic—an untitled still-life of a potted plant—is just as quiet and unassuming as the first. Ameziane's paintings also include placid depictions of a mansion, a sailboat, and a wooded mountain range.
Ordinarily, the public wouldn't be permitted to see something painted behind Guantanamo's bars. Wong explains how Ameziane's work got out:
Ameziane's is a rare case: most artworks are not allowed to leave Guantanamo for fear that they might contain coded political messages or instructions. Ameziane was able to send some to his brother in Canada through the International Red Cross. Two CCR staffers, Chase Quinn and Aliya Hussain, traveled to Canada to meet with Ameziane's brother and scan the artworks.
Much of what's moving about these paintings isn't what they show, but what they don't. How could a man who was tortured and stripped of his identity manage to make art that's so serene? If the work contains any political message, the CCR's Aliya Hussain told Wong, it's only that a "human story is the most subversive one."
[Images via Hyperallergic]