Haiti Archives 1995-1996
26/04/95 Playwright Harold Pinter opens Haiti exhibition and slams US invasion by Charles Arthur

LONDON – 26 April

At the opening night of the exhibition, Haiti: Photos, Paintings, Ironworks, the internationally renowned playwright, Harold Pinter, condemned the US for undermining democracy in Haiti.

The exhibition at London's October Gallery, staged in conjunction with the Haiti Support Group, features the work of Haitian artists, and North American and European photojournalists who have worked in Haiti in the years since the collapse of the Duvalier dictatorship.

Over the last three decades Pinter has written scores of succesful plays including The Birthday Party, and The Caretaker, and screenplays such as The Servant, The Go Between and The Handmaid's Tale. Last month he was awarded the British Literary Prize for lifetime achievement.

Pinter, a member of the London-based Haiti Support Group, formally opened the exhibition by praising the assembled works for embodying "the extraordinary spirit of the Haitian people." He went on to criticise the United States policy in Haiti calling it "a masquerade" and claiming that "a democratic procedure, a democratic election, has been totally undermined and sabotaged…by a military coup supported in fact by the United States."

Referring to last September's US military intervention in Haiti, he remembered President Clinton's contention that "a new dawn has arisen" as a result, but remarked that all that had been restored was the "status quo". He continued, "All of Aristide's endeavours to perform what he was actually elected for have been totally undermined, and he himself, in a sense, I must say with great regret, seems to have been strangled and emasculated."

The opening night of the exhibition, which runs until 17 June, was attended by over 400 invited guests, including the Haitian painter, Edouard Duval-Cari, and US photographer, Michelle Frankfurter, who recently won a World Press Award prize for her photo of a Port- au-Prince street demonstration.

Other artists featured in the exhibition include Stevenson Magloire, Prosper Pierrelouis, Frantz Lamothe, and Serge Jolimeau. Photographers contributing include Maggie Steber, Les Stone, Chantal Regnault and Roger Hutchings.

The exhibition was curated by Leah Gordon and the October Gallery, with the assistance of the Carlos Jara Gallery and Catherine Orenstein.

The Haiti Support Group works to develop solidarity in Britain with the struggle for genuine democracy and social justice in Haiti.

Transcript of Harold Pinter's opening night address follows:

"I am absolutely delighted to be here…the October Gallery is quite remarkable. What it is housing now is not only, I believe, extraordinarily arresting and vivid, but is also work of the first importance, both the photography section and the paintings.

I think all this extraordinary work in this gallery is not work in abstraction – It comes out a very specific and significant context. It seems to me to embody the extraordinary spirit of the Haitian people and to record their appalling suffering over a period of many, many years. And I believe that what is absolutely tragic at the moment is that the United States is once again performing a masquerade and is actually winning at this masquerade because the rest of the world and international opinion appears to be totally indifferent to what is actually happening in Haiti.

What is happening is that a democratic procedure, a democratic election, has been totally undermined and sabotaged – very concretely, by the act of a military coup, supported in fact by the United States, who then go into Haiti and declare – I remember President Clinton said the immortal words – "a new dawn has arisen." Well, the new dawn is a very, very old dawn indeed I'm afraid, because all that has been restored is the status quo. That is the shocking and tragic fact.

At the moment in Haiti, under the pretence of a democratic system, what is actually happening is that poverty is even worse, that the military are still there, the attachs are still there, and the lite are still there. All of Aristide's endeavours, and in fact what he was actually elected for, have been totally undermined. He himself in a sense, I must say with great regret, seems to have been strangled and emasculated, and he is only there for less than a year now anyway.

What is happening is truly shocking, and international opinion is disgracefully indifferent to these facts. So I think this marvellously vivid exhibition at least brings us all here, and perhaps may inspire us to actually act in every possible way we can to draw attention to this. Although this puerile government that we have here now doesn't seem to give a damn one way or another about anything very much, nevertheless we have a responsibility to actually bring these facts to bear, to make the facts known. Now, this exhibition seems to me to make the facts known in the most wonderfully imaginative, arresting and extraordinary way, and I do congratulate everyone who has brought this about, including the artists and the photographers who are here tonight. I am delighted and honoured to be here, and to declare this extremely significant exhibition open."

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