Next Friday, on Sept. 28, “Shitholes” is coming to Philadelphia. A one–day only art gallery at the Adrienne Theater in Rittenhouse Square, “Shitholes” is showcasing art from countries across the world, countries described so infamously by President Trump as “shitholes.”
The gallery is organized by Le Chapeau Project, “.” Bringing artists from over 15 countries, from Haiti to Honduras to Tanzania, the exhibit is showcasing nearly 100 pieces of varying mediums. Added to that are performance pieces later in the day with musicians and poets, drawn from both local Philadelphians and immigrant artists.
The idea sprung from Donald Trump’s comment back in January, describing several countries, including Haiti, as The comment came in a meeting with Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, as they brought forward an alternative to Trump’s proposal to end the Diversity Visa Lottery program. Under this program, the State Department offered 50,000 visas to immigrants from countries with relatively few immigrants to the States. Durbin and Graham’s suggestion would have redistributed the visas to vulnerable populations where the U.S. has granted temporary protected status. These populations were, as Trump described, from “shithole countries.”
The outrage that followed the comment was by no means small. As it was for the organizers of the exhibit, Fatène Ben–Hamza of Morocco and Steve Garguilo of Mexico, “instead of just talking about it and complaining about it, we should do something about it,” Garguilo said. So began the curation process for “Shitholes,” an ironic take on the comment, as it displays the beauties and remarkable works by people who have originated from these countries.
The “Shitholes” exhibit is an opportunity to “see the world through the eyes of someone in Rwanda,” described Garguilo. “It’s a chance to see that art and be part of a conversation around the idea that ‘We’re all in this together.’” Through photography, painting, illustration, and sculpture, the exhibit is both a chance to see beautiful art and learn the cultures behind them. “There’ll also be a few surprises,” he added, hinting that the gallery may consist of interactive elements as well.
Aside from the works, Ben–Hamza and Garguilo are also working with the Pennsylvania Immigration Coalition to fundraise for donations and to raise awareness about the current immigration issues. There will also be a panel facilitated by JUNTOS, a non–profit dedicated to the rights of the Latinx immigrant community, on the current state of immigrant challenges.
At the end of the day, the exhibit “sets up the ground for a much–needed conversation,” said Ben–Hamza. And the intentional choice of Philadelphia, as the City of Brotherly Love, speaks to how the artwork and exhibit will bring together people, artists, and viewers alike.
“Shitholes” will be displayed at the Adrienne Theater (2030 Sansom St.) on Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are free for all.