An astonishing exhibition was launched this week in central London of poetry, pottery, paintings, crafts, pictures, photographs, cartoons – all created by men detained under anti-terror laws in the UK.
Appropriately held at Together, a national charity supporting people with mental health needs, this is an eclectic mixture of works, all created by men arrested, detained and psychologically punished by the war on terror. It aims to highlight ‘the mental health concerns and the hidden human tragedy taking place, all in the name of security’.
The exhibition contains information on those unidentifiable men, who can only be referred by initials such as ‘G’ or ‘B’, and their experiences of the British state’s system of indefinite detention without trial. Despite such brutalising experiences the art created (much of it in Long Lartin and Belmarsh maximum secure jails) is singularly beautiful. The thought, imagination and patient work invested in creating such pieces is hard to reconcile with the government’s view that these men are some of the most dangerous and callous in the UK today.
The cartoons are thought provoking and funny, the poetry sad but still hopeful. The copy of Guernica is eye-catching, the ship, train and other mementoes for loved ones made painstakingly from matchsticks are touching. But the intricate painted pottery is the most amazing of all. What is surprising is that such delicacy can come from such tortured minds. The men who created these pieces are still held in prisons, psychiatric hospitals or detained at home under virtual house arrest, their liberty restricted by control orders – all suffering the effects of indefinite detention without trial – as are their families’.
In a touching gesture, all those at the opening night of the exhibition were given hand-crafted cards made by the men as thank-yous for attending. On that evening, families and friends of the artists, lawyers, writers, journalists, campaigners, heard speeches from Moazzam Begg, Victoria Brittain, Cerie Bullivant, Gareth Peirce, Terry Waite and poetry read by Manjinder Virk and Yvonne Ridley.
Everyone should see this exhibition, created by Cageprisoners and Together, which will be showing till Friday 4 July 2008 at Together.
Victoria Brittain writing in the Guardian: The art of internment