Liberating Art from Guantánamo Bay, by The Unforgotten Moon An artistic project organised by Natasha Malik centres on the tragic 21 years of Ahmed Rabbani, a taxi driver from Karachi, who was detained in Guantánamo Bay while fighting off unfounded claims that he was a terrorist linked to one of the groups responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the United States (US). 

Initially intended as a way to supplement a small cattle business during hard times, the venture ended up paying him handsomely. Ahmed, however, is in need of money after spent the first 21 years of his life behind bars.  with this agreement, Ahmed will receive 100% of the money made when participating artists’ works are sold during the exhibition; he has not yet collected this money but anticipates doing so shortly. Ahmed made the decision not to sell any of his own works at the exhibition in Karachi, where he had only recently moved back two months earlier.

The US government continues to withhold some pieces under the pretext that they pose a direct threat to national security. Ahmed explains why this is the case when I ask him why, saying “Because they don’t want the world to know that the United States of America lacks basic humanity.”

After years of wrongful imprisonment in 

Guantánamo Bay, Ahmed Rabbani and his

artwork serve as both a   reminder of the

atrocities committed by the US government

and as a testament to the endurance of the

human spirit.



The curator claims that the extent of brutality Ahmed experienced is incomprehensible, including seeing examples of ancient torture methods and witnessing the horrible events that befell an innocent man. Natasha read more and more, which made her restless and unable to sleep. . Ahmed, on the other hand, gently informed me that he had only slept for two hours in the previous 48 hours minutes before our interview, merely out of an abundance of caution in case he stopped making sense.

Although Ahmed started painting formally in 2011, he didn’t receive his first canvas until 2016. Before that, how did he paint? Who or what did he paint? The surrounding boundary walls, bits of denim, items from convicts’ uniforms, and pretty much everything else. He created his works of art using coffee, tea powder, and gravy before paints were allowed inside the institution. On paper, tissue rolls, and the walls of his cell, he would make drawings. He occasionally used human waste in an effort to avenge himself and irritate the prison guards.


Ahmed credits Sabri al-Qurashi, a Yemeni prisoner from his block, as his “ustad” (teacher), for teaching him everything.

Now, acrylics are his preferred medium of choice. Sabri was then taught acrylic painting by him, which was a lyrical touch and a tribute to their artistic partnership.The difference between fiction and reality is never more evident than in Ahmed’s 2018 piece Untitled, in which the Statue of Liberty is depicted symbolically as fruit hanging from a branch.

Ahmed challenges the fanciful idea that the US serves as the centre for the emblem of liberty that is used by all nations. He claims that this is completely untrue and that the essay is satirical in nature. He characterises the United States as the “illusion of freedom,” claiming that it acts as a loudmouth and assumes a position of moral superiority when it polices and lectures nations like Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North Korea while failing to occasionally look in the mirror.

Naturally, the subject of freedom recurs in his artwork. Another unidentified artwork from 2017 shows fire worship in contrast to unidentified (2018), which depicts worshippers who look to be Muslims bending down to the tree that bears the fruit of liberty. One wonders if the torch that the Statue of Liberty lady is holding is where the fire comes from, or if Ahmed is making a reference to a oneness of religion and connecting it to a oneness of humanity, a sentiment he cherishes almost indelibly.

Guantánamo Bay, according to Ahmed, serves as the “black thread” that connects each of his works. He frequently uses the themes of confinement and censorship in his works. The paintings forgivingly display the various forms of torture and censorship that the prisoner-artist had to endure My chains come back when even one person is detained.

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