When Ahmed Rabbani ran out of paint to satisfy his artistic yearnings during 20 years of incarceration at Guantanamo Bay, he turned to whatever came to hand – dirt, coffee grinds and even spices such as turmeric from the prison canteen.
“Through painting, I would feel myself outside Guantanamo,” the 53-year-old Pakistani said this week at an exhibition of his work in Karachi.
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“While Ghul went back to his terrorist ways and was killed in a drone strike in 2012, Ahmed got a one-way trip to Guantanamo Bay.”
Born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where his parents worked, Rabbani moved back to Karachi as a teen and was a taxi driver at the time of his detention.rabbani” width=”1000″ height=”630″ srcset=”https://arynews.tv/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/painter-5.jpg 1000w, https://arynews.tv/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/painter-5-300×189.jpg 300w, https://arynews.tv/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/painter-5-768×484.jpg 768w, https://arynews.tv/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/painter-5-150×95.jpg 150w, https://arynews.tv/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/painter-5-600×378.jpg 600w, https://arynews.tv/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/painter-5-696×438.jpg 696w, https://arynews.tv/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/painter-5-667×420.jpg 667w” sizes=”(max-width: 1000px) 100vw, 1000px”/Fluent in Arabic, he specialised in guiding visitors from the Middle East – a factor which contributed to him being misidentified.
While imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, painting became an obsession for Rabbani, although years spent on hunger strike meant he was often too frail to even hold a brush.
If he ran out of materials, he would improvise.
“I would find and turn a piece of discarded or torn clothes into canvas,” he said.
“Sometimes I drew from coffee, sometimes from turmeric.”
In ‘The Unforgotten Moon: Liberating Art from Guantanamo Bay’, around two dozen pieces Rabbani was allowed to take from prison are on display – alongside works by local artists who have ‘re-imagined’ paintings that were confiscated.
“He is someone who has lost so much of his life, so to produce the images of this quality is a miracle… it’s remarkable,” said Natasha Malik, curator and organiser of the exhibition.
“Displayed alongside Ahmed’s