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This Art Belongs to the Artist Symposium

Date: April 12, 2024
Time: 3:00PM - 7:00PM
Address: Hanes Art Center, Room 121

The exhibition will include a display of original art created at the GBDC from April 12-19, 2024 culminating in a symposium on April 12, 2024 to address the sovereign, and political, and legal dimensions of detainee art. The symposium speakers will include the virtual participation of several released detainee artists. Legal experts will address the inter-related international law issues and the paradox within claims to human rights, with a focus on art and the rights of detainees to own and control their creative work.

Through an art exhibition and a day-long symposium, this project aims to expand our understanding of the ongoing impact of state violence and the extralegal prison Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp through the framework of art and law.

Since GBDC's opening in 2002, the U.S. has detained 780 individuals, the vast majority of whom have been released without charge. Those who have been released are often transferred to countries pursuant to secret agreements and have been rendered “stateless.” These detainees are largely Middle Eastern, including Afghans, Saudi Arabians, Yemenis, Pakistanis, and Algerians. The violation of detainees' rights at GBDC has been well documented; these violations include detaining people indefinitely without trial, using extreme interrogation methods including sleep deprivation, simulated drowning, and other forms of physical and psychological torture.

Symposium Schedule
2:00 – 3:00 pm: Exhibition Reception
3:00 – 3:20 pm: Introduction by Martin Brinkley, Dean of the School of Law and the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina

3:20 – 4:00 pm: Panel 1 History Lessons: The Road Starts Here
This panel provides an overview of the historical circumstances that gave rise to U.S. control of the Naval Station in Guantánamo, and participation of the state of North Carolina in the U.S. program of extraordinary rendition and torture that culminated in Guantánamo.

Christina Cowger, NC Stop Torture Now, “First in Torture Flights: North Carolina’s Role in CIA Renditions
Louis A. Pérez, Carlyle Sitterson Professor UNC Department of History “Guantánamo: From Naval Station to Detention Center”

4:00 – 5:15 pm: Panel 2 – This Art Belongs to the Artist

This Art Belongs to the Artists brings together several former detainees and survivors of Guantánamo Bay Detention Center along with attorney Beth Jacob and human rights scholar Alexandra Moore to share stories of art making as a form of protest and a necessary process for survival.

Moath Al-Awi via Alexandra Moore, Director; Professor Human Rights Institute; English, General Literature and Rhetoric, Binghamton Univ., State Univ of New York
Mansoor Adayfi, Writer and former Guantánamo prisoner
Ahmed Rabbani, Artist and Former Guantanamo prisoner 1461
Sabri Al Qurashi- Artist and former Guantánamo prisoner
Beth D Jacob, Managing Attorney, Healing and Recovery after Trauma

5:30 – 6:15 pm: Keynote Speaker
Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Regents Professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and former UN Special Rapporteur Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights 2017-2023. “You Came too Late”: Reflection on the First UN Visit to the Detention Facility at Guantánamo Bay

6:15 – 7:00pm: Panel 3 – Social Action, Law & Art
This panel will explore the connections between art, liberation, and abolition and the growing interdisciplinary work of artists using their practices as tools towards justice and abolition. Addressing art and abolition as a framework for human rights and the law, this panel will think through critical questions around the law and the fundamental issues of freedom of expression and art as resistance.

Aliya Hussain, Center for Constitutional Rights, “Resisting Guantánamo”
Aaron Hughes & Amber Ginsburg, artists, “Remaking the Exceptional”

Background on the former detainee artwork
Between 2009 and 2017, detainees at GBDC were provided with art supplies and allowed to participate in art classes. Much of this artwork was transferred from the Guantánamo Bay Detention Center to attorneys representing Guantánamo detainees. Some detainees were permitted to claim some of their art upon their release. In late 2017, however, after a series of successful curated showings of this art across the United States, detainees remaining in Guantánamo were prohibited from transferring their art and denied ownership of their work. After intervention by human rights advocates, including two UN Special Rapporteurs, detainees were granted a limited right to take some of their artwork as deemed by the government as “practicable” upon their release while remaining subject to government claims that the art remains the property of the United States.

Co-Sponsors: UNC Law School, Institute for the Study of the Americas, College of Arts and Sciences, Institute for Arts and Humanities, Art Department, Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies, Center for European Studies, Asian American Center, Beth Jacob/ Healing and Recovery after Trauma, Department of History, Department of Communications, Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies, Department of Women & Gender Studies, NC Stop Torture Now, Sociology Department, Department of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, and the Department of Romance Studies.

Zoom Link

For more information, please contact Deborah M. Weissman or Hồng-Ân Trương