"The Incarcerated Inuit Artists Who Carve to Support Their Families" Discussion Thread

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I am not familiar with these artists, but on the island nation of Palau, the same phenomenon is at work: inmates carve storyboards to support their families. Beautiful work.

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Another prison art example, now gone. The penal colony on the island of Coiba in Panama. In 1980 I visited the colony. The prisoners were not locked up, but rather could go anywhere they wanted. The jungle is tough there and there was no way to get off the island. Prisoners lived in simple small buildings in a tiny settlement on the eastern coast of the island. They made art that I believe is unique to Coiba and the penal colony. These were graphic hangings ranging from 1 foot by 1 foot to about 36 inches wide by 4 ft tall. They were made of tiny shells found on the beach. It took thousands of these shells of many different colors and shades to make one hanging. Some prisoners specialized in collecting and cleaning and some created the hangings by threading shells onto strings hanging closely together from a narrow board. I saw many that were really creative and well executed.
The prison closed in 2004 and the prisoners were relocated to facilities on the mainland. The entire island is now Coiba National Park. The prison structures are slowly being reclaimed by jungle, its crumbling buildings and simply marked graves serve as the only memorial to Coiba’s penal colony history.
I’ve been unable to find any information on the artists or on the art itself. I don’t know of any similar art elsewhere in Panama. There are other “hanging shell art” graphics in other parts of the world but not done in the spectacular style or with the quality of the Coiba artists. I wish I could find information on this art but it’s seemingly unavailable. Articles like this AtlasObscura piece reveal and record a genre that otherwise would be unknown.

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