An Exhibition of Guantánamo Prisoners’ Artwork at Humboldt University of Berlin

14.2.24

The poster for the exhibition, featuring a painting by Sabri al-Qurashi.

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I’m delighted to be flagging up an important exhibition of Guantánamo prisoners’ artwork that is currently on display at the Atrium-Gallery of the Institute of Cultural History and Theory at Humboldt University of Berlin (Georgenstr. 47, 10117 Berlin).

The exhibition — of original artwork by one current prisoner, Moath al-Alwi, and three former prisoners, Sabri al-Qurashi, Mohammed al-Ansi and Ghalib al-Bihani, all Yemenis — is the first to take place outside the US, where several exhibitions have taken place since the ground-breaking “Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantánamo” was presented at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York from October 2017 to January 2018. See here for my report about that exhibition, and see here and here for my reports from a subsequent exhibition held at CUNY School of Law in New York in 2020. Please also check out my articles here and here (and follow the internal links) for the full story of how, from November 2017 to February 2023, the US government imposed a ban on prisoners leaving with their artwork (and threatened to destroy it) in a fit of pique triggered by the John Jay College exhibition.

Moath al-Alwi, best known for his impressive sailing ships made out of recycled materials, was approved for release from Guantánamo over two years ago, on December 27, 2021, but, shamefully, is still held. Sabri al-Qurashi, meanwhile, was resettled in Kazakhstan in 2014, but promises that he would helped to rebuild his life have turned to ashes, as he explained to Elise Swain for an article for the Intercept a year ago.

Both Muhammad al-Ansi and Ghalib al-Bihani were more fortunate, as they were resettled in Oman in January 2017, regarded as “an ideal, culturally compatible nation to receive Yemeni detainees” who could not be repatriated because of a US ban on transfers to Yemen, as the New York Times explained in 2021.

Artworks by Mohammed al-Ansi (left) and Sabri al-Qurashi (right). Photo ©Roman Hagenbrock.

The exhibition in Berlin, entitled, “über Guantánamo hinaus”, which roughly translates as “Beyond Guantánamo”, opened on January 18, and will run until February 24, open on Thursdays and Fridays (February 15, 16, 22 and 23) from 2pm to 8pm, and on Saturdays (February 17 and 24) from 10am to 4pm.

Tomorrow, February 15, a public tour is taking place at 5 pm, followed by Zoom talks with Guantánamo attorney Beth Jacob at 6:15pm and former Guantánamo prisoner Mansoor Adayfi at 7:30pm. For further information, please contact Dr. Sebastian Köthe, the co-curator of the exhibition with Larissa-Diana Fuhrmann.

Artwork by Moath al-Alwi. Photo ©Roman Hagenbrock.

The exhibition features 13 artworks in total, and the photos included here are ©Roman Hagenbrock. Also included are German translations of several of the poems from the book “Poems from Guantánamo”, which was published in the US in 2007.

In promoting the exhibition, an English translation of the promotional text states, “The exhibition presents the works as part of an art of survival. They make it possible to see the camp beyond the perspective of the US military through the eyes of the detainees themselves. At the same time, they point beyond Guantánamo. They bear witness to the sensitivity of human life, to the art of survival and to indelible inner landscapes.”

Artwork by Sabri al-Qurashi. Photo ©Roman Hagenbrock.

When he contacted me about the exhibition, Sebastian also explained that there are further plans to tour the exhibition in the German-speaking world, and maybe beyond, which I hope is of interest to academics, campaigners and activists in other European countries, including the UK. 

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (see the ongoing photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.50).

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and, in 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to try to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody.

Since 2019, Andy has become increasingly involved in environmental activism, recognizing that climate change poses an unprecedented threat to life on earth, and that the window for change — requiring a severe reduction in the emission of all greenhouse gases, and the dismantling of our suicidal global capitalist system — is rapidly shrinking, as tipping points are reached that are occurring much quicker than even pessimistic climate scientists expected. You can read his articles about the climate crisis here.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

One Response

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, a report — with photos — about “über Guantanamo hinaus”, the first exhibition of Guantanamo prisoners’ original artwork outside the US, currently taking place at Humboldt University of Berlin, and featuring artwork by one current prisoner, Moath al-Alwi, and three former prisoners, Sabri al-Qurashi, Mohammed al-Ansi and Ghalib al-Bihani.

    The exhibition opened on January 18, and closes on February 24, 2024, with a special event taking place tomorrow (February 15). As the curator, Sebastian Köthe, explained to me, however, there are further plans to tour the exhibition in the German-speaking world, and maybe beyond, which I hope is of interest to academics, campaigners and activists in other European countries, including the UK.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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