Times 2

Artwork by Guantanamo Bay inmates gives rare glimpse into life behind bars

By Fiona Roberts

With their brightly-coloured landscapes and traditional still-life paintings, this selection of artwork looks like any other exhibition. But these images were all created by inmates at Guantanamo Bay detention center -- which include some of the world's most renowned terror suspects.

They offer a fascinating glimpse into life behind bars at the Cuban jail, which began giving art classes as a reward for good behaviour soon after President Obama's inauguration. At present 40 of the camp's 171 inmates take the classes, which according to the jail's cultural coordinator, known only as Zak, make them 'more relaxed'.

Troubled: This image, of a ship on storm-tossed seas, offers a glimpse into the inmates' inner-lives

None of the paintings bear signatures, so it is impossible to know whether they have been produced by prominent terror suspects like self-confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, or less well-known figures.

He told BBC Mundo: 'Some of the inmates have demonstrated artistic talent.' The paintings, which have all been screened for 'aggressive' content, depictions of other inmates or secret messages, are on display in the prison library.

Inmates cannot see the Cuban coast, which lies just metres from the jail, yet many of the paintings show beaches and palm trees. Others depict every-day objects from their past lives, such as lamps and teapots, or the streets of rural villages.

But a few seem to give a glimpse into the inmates' troubled inner-lives, such as a ship on storm-tossed seas or a forbidding locked door - as well as a desire to escape. Prisoners can only use basic materials like pastels and paints so they cannot harm themselves or the guards.

The camp prevents reporters from speaking to or photographing inmates, so this small selection of images provides one of the few glimpses of life in the camp. They are less bleak than the camp's previous artistic offering, a book of poetry entitled Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak which was published in 2007.

Although they had been screened by national security officials, many directly criticised their captors,including lines such as 'this soul which has suffered at the hands of the "protectors of peace".'
Inmates cannot access the library - which houses 16,000 books written in 18 different languages - directly, and instead choose titles from a list for the guards to deliver.

Officials say the most popular are the Harry Potter series and Agatha Christie's mystery titles.
Inmates can also take classes in English and geology.

© Daily Mail, London

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