As I mentioned in class last Thursday, while studying abroad in Amman, Jordan last semester I had the chance to attend an exhibition of paintings made by Iraqi torture victims through the course of their participation in The Center for Victims of Tortures’ art therapy program.
Our class discussion that day revolved around the role of the state in discouraging and delegitimizing art that portrayed the darker aspects of life in Iraq. The role of the Iraqi state in stifling this type of darker art was diminished in this case as it was displayed in Jordan under the auspices of an international organization. The Jordanian state may even have had an interest in promoting this specific exhibition as a means of propagating its image as a progressive regime among the Arab states.
After reviewing a few of these paintings, I noticed that they seemed a bit more varied than the works we viewed in class that were produced within Iraq; some are certainly just as dark, yet many boast the inclusion of symbols of hope. This, I think, comes from the fact that the individual artists behind the paintings are creating their work under the care of individuals encouraging them to look toward a brighter future.
To be perfectly honest, at first, the fact that an exhibition was being held to view this type of art struck me as strange. Isn’t therapy a very personal venture? Who is the actual audience that will view, interpret, and be influenced by the art? The exhibition was held in a wealthier area of Amman, and a fellow American student and I were the only people in attendance for a full forty-five minutes. And after perusing photos of the gallery online, I noticed that all viewers that were photographed were very clearly either upper-class Jordanians or Westerners. This initially makes me think that that the intent is to reach human rights activists residing in Jordan, but I can’t help but wonder why victims of torture that haven’t spoken up yet were not at least a portion the target audience for viewing of the program’s final result.
The Center for Victims of Torture website can be accessed through the following link: http://www.cvt.org/
An informational video about the exhibit can be viewed here: http://www.cvt.org/where-we-work/middle-east