How long has it been since Donald Trump reportedly referred to Mexico, Guatemala, Haiti, El Salvador and several African countries as “shitholes”?
In a mercurial news cycle that flits from one scandal to the next, it can be easy to forget. (Answer: it happened in January.) But next month, artists from around the globe are coming to Philly to reexamine the president’s derogatory statement — and challenge it — through visual art.
“Shitholes: The Exhibit” is a one-day, multimedia pop-up gallery coming to The Adrienne Theater in September. It will showcase contemporary artists from so-called “shithole” nations like Morocco, Tunisia, Rwanda, Algeria, Uganda and South American countries. (Artists from the United States will also likely be featured. Oh, the irony.)
The force behind “Shitholes” is Le Chapeau Project, comprised of Fàtene Ben-Hamza, a Frenchman living in Casablanca, Morocco, and Steve Garguilo Ben-Hamza, a Pennsylvania native who resides in in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
Le Chapeau Project curates one-day only art shows around the world. The idea behind it was to say “hats off” to things that are “good in the world and more worthy of praise and visibility,” explained Garguilo. (Chapeau in French means hat, FYI.)
After Trump’s “shitholes” remark swept international news earlier this year, Ben-Hamza and Garguilo started looking for a way to celebrate the denigrated nations, which are regularly misrepresented in West.
“Many people may have never had exposure to day-to-day life in Haiti or Rwanda or Tunisia or Guatemala, and there are remarkable artists in these places and everywhere, all over the world,” Garguilo said. “So we thought, ‘what if we seek out some of the very best art from these places as an opportunity to showcase the amazing talents and perspectives from people who may otherwise be seen as others?'”
You can expect to see paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, digital media installations, photographs and films from artists repping from more than fifteen countries at the pop-up gallery. The eclectic mix of mediums and artists (some are famous in their home countries, others are relatively unknown) is purposeful, organizers said, intended as a celebration of diversity.
So, why was Philly chosen to host the multicultural affair?
Per the organizers, they felt the city’s slogan of “brotherly love” would be a perfect fit for the message behind “Shitholes: The Exhibit.”
“Philly’s art scene is, in so many ways, the center of the contemporary art scene in the United States,” Garguilo added. “Even more so than New York or Los Angeles.”
(Plus, he and Ben-Hamza “both love Philly,” and wanted an excuse to visit, so there’s that.)
The duo hopes to see a “massive turnout” of folks from local immigrant and activist communities in Philly and the surrounding area, as well as others who appreciate artistic traditions and interpretations from foreign countries.
“This is our chance to transform these crude remarks into a positive response,” Garguilo said.
The exhibit is free to attend thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, but donations will be collected throughout the day to benefit the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition. It’ll take place on Friday, Sep. 28 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at The Adrienne Theater. You can RSVP and share the event on Facebook.
A few of the artists will be in attendance, as well as a French documentary crew that is a making a series about the work. For artists who can’t make it from their home countries, Le Chapeau Project will be coordinating Facebook Live chat sessions with them during the day so exhibit attendees can chat with them about their work.
P.S., Philly: “Shitholes: The Exhibit” still has a few slots available for musicians and performers interested in being part of the evening show. If you’re interested, you can email Ben-Hamza and Garguilo at firstname.lastname@example.org.