Art Belongs to the Artist Symposium

Date: April 12, 2024
Time: 3:00PM – 7:00PM
Address: Hanes Art Center (tentative)

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.

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.