The artist Ojore Lutalo was released from Trenton State Penitentiary in August 2009 by way of a court order. He maxed out after 28 year. 22 of which were spent in the Management Control Unit (solitary confinement). Lutalo was imprisoned after an armed robbery conviction, but he was held in the MCU because his political beliefs–his association with the with the Anarchist Black Cross Federation and Black Liberation Army–were deemed a threat to the security of the prison. In order to keep his sanity during his internment, Lutalo says he abided by a strict regiment of physical exercise, mediation and study. He also began creating political art. Ojore Lutalo provided the following description of his artwork:

“Over the years Ojore was asked repeatedly to describe the conditions that he faced on a daily basis. These requests ranged from simple curiosity as to the physical particulars of his cell and surroundings to the profound emotional pressures and struggles associated with long-term solitary confinement. Ojore began creating his political propaganda both as a way to maintain his sanity and to more adequately convey to his friends the physical and emotional reality he experienced within solitary confinement. For the last 22 years of his confinement Ojore created a wide range of art pieces offering his unique perspective.

“Since his release is 2008, Ojore dedicates himself to assisting the American Friends Service Committee in its attempt to expose the true nature and extent of long-term isolation, its effect both on the prisoner individually as well as society at large. This outreach often involves speaking engagements in which he uses artwork to re-enforce his text, finding visuals often communicate more effectively than a purely oral presentation. Often after speaking, Ojore receives requests from individuals to purchase his artwork. The limited proceeds from the sale of these pieces allow Ojore to continue to volunteer his time to the American Friends Service Committee.”

What follows is a small sample of Ojore Lutalo’s work. His collages are for sale on the website www.ojorebehindenemylines.com, and he is available for art showings: e-mail kerness.b@verizon.net.    –Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

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