A play about a contested peace and reconciliation centre in South America is coming to Northern Ireland.
It is part of a trilogy of productions surrounding Chile’s political past and moving on in a post-violence society which opens at the MAC theatre in Belfast later this month. It comes as the DUP and Sinn Fein have been unable to agree on a shared conflict transformation venue on the site of the former Maze prison near Lisburn.
Part of the visiting performance surrounds the building of a museum outlining the crimes of General Augusto Pinochet’s era.
Playwright Guillermo Calderon said: “We have a problem with this which is that we have a museum which creates the illusion that in Chile all the problems are over because we have this symbolic gesture but in reality we don’t have true justice.
“The gesture of a museum becomes meaningless and the opposite of what we really wanted.”
Supporters of the dictator, who ruled between 1973 and 1990, believed his rule was a response to the socialist excesses of his predecessor and that this was not adequately reflected in the exhibitions.
Others opposed the museum’s construction while victims’ fight for justice for past wrongs still continued.
Mr Calderon added: “We should not have a museum before actual true justice otherwise we are creating the illusion that the country is ready to move on. I would rather we did not have the museum but rather true justice.”
In Northern Ireland some victims of the troubles united in opposition to construction of a peace and reconciliation centre at the former Maze prison, where IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands was among those to die.
How to deliver justice to victims of the conflict has bedevilled the local political process.
Mr Calderon claimed the post-Pinochet democracy in Chile had to make a lot of compromises to keep the peace, one being that people did not receive justice and truth about the crimes of the dictatorship, which include those “disappeared” by Pinochet’s secret police.
He added: “We yearned for justice but we did not get it. That became a source of frustration and still all the wounds are open.”
In Chile the justice system has been able to deal with a few of the main assassins and torturers but many more minor players have not been prosecuted. The playwright said justice had to be timely.
“We are dealing with things that happened 40 years ago. Most of the criminals are too old to attend trial or they are already dead and maybe the victims are already gone so justice already did not happen.
“The country is going to have an open wound for years and maybe the problem is never going to be solved.
“In Chile the pain and frustration is being inherited in the next generation, also the grandsons and granddaughters so we have to deal with that, which is different from the problem of justice and that is where art and theatre comes into the discussion.”
He said he wanted to help create an artistic community to think about these difficult issues, to encourage a sense “that we are still together and can deal with them together as a community”.
“At least that is a small response to dealing with anger and frustration in isolation.”
The trilogy includes a double bill of Villa and Discurso, which opens on 27 May. Villa focuses on three women debating how to transform a former torture centre into a symbol of the new Chile. Discurso involves a farewell speech made by the first female president while Tejas Verdes looks at the country’s disappeared through the eyes of the victims, perpetrators and families.