“Pepe” is a word in Haiti that refers to the heaps of cast-off secondhand clothing that’s infiltrated even the remote provinces of the country.
The T-shirts in particular essentially qualify as trash; that isn’t only a reference to their quality, but to the incredibly crass and crude English messages stamped on them.
Artists Paulo Woods and Ben Depp began photographing Haitians wearing the shirts to illustrate the condescending nature of the relationship between the developed world and the island nation.
Pepe is dumped by the boatload in Port-au-Prince, onto a waterfront market previously used in the slave trade. Much of the discarded clothing actually originated in Haiti. It was produced in their sweatshops, and then sold to various U.S. stores like Walmart. Pepe mostly comes from American charities and collection centers. Once it’s deemed unsellable by thrift stores, it’s sent to sorting warehouses in Miami, and finally on to Haiti with other unwanted items.