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Nothing on the outside walls of a prison yard is sufficient in aiding one’s imagination on the life that goes on inside. This was so for artist and human rights activist Arthur Judah Angel before his unjust arrest and incarceration. On that fateful day, the 21st of January 1984, a visit he paid to his friend in police custody would cost 21-year-old Arthur Angel 16 years of imprisonment, of which a decade was spent on death row, an experience too gory to envisage.

Arthur Angel and his artworks

While in prison, he made drawings on the cell walls using charcoal from the prison kitchen. From drawing on these walls, he began to make cards and portraits for important figures who visited the prison, and his artworks would attract international organizations like the British Council, Amnesty International, and various human rights groups. Upon his release, he had made over fifty drawings and these have been exhibited locally and internationally.

Arthur Angel, who once was prepared for execution on the 2nd of August 1994, illustrates the deplorable state of Nigerian prisons and typical experiences of prisoners in his drawings and in his book I Refused to Die, an existence which he describes as ‘one between life and death. You don’t belong to either world.’ He is the Founder and President of Life Wire International Foundation, an NGO aimed at bringing an end to capital punishment and the abuse of human rights in prisons, and rehabilitation for ex-convicts. He was freed on the 15th of February 2000 and today is happily married with five kids.

On October 10, 2017, Sorrows, Tears and Blood, an exhibition of drawings and interactions by Arthur Judah Angel on the abolition of the death penalty will take place at Freedom Park, 1 Hospital Road, Lagos Island by 2 pm.

More works by Arthur J. Angel, courtesy

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This article was first published on 7th October 2017


Nnenna is an editor and writer at Connect Nigeria. She loves fine art, books and places.

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