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From captivity to creative imagination: Pakistani prisoner at Gitmo finds flexibility in paint | World News


When Ahmed Rabbani ran out of paint to fulfill his creative yearnings in the course of twenty several years of incarceration at Guantanamo Bay, he turned to what ever arrived to hand — dust, espresso grinds and even spices this kind of as turmeric from the jail canteen.

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba (File)(AP)
Guantanamo Bay Naval Foundation, Cuba (File)(AP)(*5*)

“By means of portray, I would really feel myself outdoors Guantanamo,” the fifty three-12 months-previous Pakistani explained this 7 days at an exhibition of his get the job done in the port metropolis of Karachi.

“Portray was anything for me there.”

Rabbani was detained by Pakistan authorities in September 2002 and handed in excess of to the US Central Intelligence Company for a bounty of $5,000.

He was “offered” on the foundation he was a infamous militant recognized as Hassan Ghul, but Rabbani usually insisted it was a circumstance of mistaken identification.

He was also accused of recruiting his more mature brother Muhammed into extremist circles.

The two have been never ever billed or confronted demo in the course of two many years in detention, and they have been only unveiled in February this 12 months.

“The US experienced compensated very good cash and did not want to have been taken for a journey,” Rabbani’s law firm, Clive Stafford Smith, wrote in the exhibition catalogue.

“One thing neither he nor I realized till the US Senate printed its Rendition Report in 2014 was that Ghul was captured and introduced to the very same jail — only to be unveiled back again to Pakistan for ‘cooperating’.

“Whilst Ghul went back again to his terrorist techniques and was killed in a drone strike in 2012, Ahmed acquired a one particular-way excursion to Guantanamo Bay.”

– Drawing from espresso, turmeric –

Born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in which his mother and father labored, Rabbani moved back again to Karachi as a teenager and was a taxi driver at the time of his detention.

Fluent in Arabic, he specialised in guiding guests from the Center East — a issue which contributed to him getting misidentified.

Whilst imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, portray grew to become an obsession for Rabbani, even though several years expended on starvation strike intended he was typically also frail to even keep a brush.

If he ran out of supplies, he would improvise.

“I would discover and convert a piece of discarded or torn garments into canvas,” he explained.

“Often I drew from espresso, from time to time from turmeric.”

In “The Unforgotten Moon: Liberating Artwork from Guantanamo Bay”, close to two dozen parts Rabbani was authorized to just take from jail are on screen — together with functions by regional artists who have “re-imagined” paintings that have been confiscated.

“He is an individual who has misplaced so substantially of his lifetime, so to make the illustrations or photos of this high quality is a wonder… it is amazing,” explained Natasha Malik, curator and organiser of the exhibition.

“Shown together with Ahmed’s uncensored artwork, the artists amplify his protest and artistic expression, by recreating the get the job done that the general public was never ever intended to see.”

Sporting a salt-and-pepper beard and carrying a regular shalwar kameez and waistcoat, Rabbani was the centre of focus at the exhibition opening.

With a smile and twinkle in his eye, he outlined grand options for the several years in advance.

Initial up is the publication of a cookery ebook — he rekindled a enthusiasm for the kitchen area even though at Guantanamo.

“It will have his memoirs in it — but in the placing of a cookbook,” Stafford Smith advised AFP.

Then he desires to open up a cafe based mostly on recipes he learnt even though in jail — ideally employing resources lifted from profits of his artwork.

Depicting his hopes and despair, his artwork is astonishingly achieved for an individual who did just a smattering of artwork at college.

Some parts are evident expressions of yearnings for flexibility — character observed by means of slim openings, birds traveling and limitless oceans.

An additional reveals a cage made up of vibrant orange fish — the color of overalls Guantanamo prisoners have been pressured to don.

“I expended a lot of several years in orange,” he explained.

“I never ever approved their legal guidelines. I would usually crack their legal guidelines.”

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