November 7, 2009
Look of Oppressed: About the Same, Except a Lot Less Blurrier
by BAGnews contributor Stan Banos
Photographers such as
have been dashing about in record numbers chronicling and documenting the incredible industrial and manufacturing transformation that is the current day wonder called Ed Burtynsky China. And while some such as have concentrated magnificently on the horrendously destructive environmental effects, few if any have looked beyond the mainland to notice the impact this emerging powerhouse has had on other Lu Guang developing nations.
One photographer who has is
, and if his overlooked subject matter somehow has the ring of deja vu all over again, it’s because the faces and lives pictured within his work still bear the centuries old scars that are being revisited today. Of course, the pictures back in the Paolo Woods 19th century were in B&W and considerably blurrier, but the look of the oppressed shine through in any medium, regardless of the century.
Absent today is the blatant genocide and overt military presence that subdued native populations and signaled Europe’s imperialism- local militia and the foreign capital their leaders have been infused with now perform their “sponsor’s” bidding.
The West’s reputation may be in tatters in Africa with its history of , post colonial assassinations (eg- colonialism ), and Patrice Lamumba . But failed foreign aid and economic policies reports all is not well in the new power marriage between China and Africa, despite all the building and glad handing (and I sure wouldn’t want to live downhill of one of the hastily built dams they’re constructing there). Serge Michel
Then, of course, there are the photographs themselves. The look of subservience, mistrust and isolation is blatantly apparent in so many of the indigenous faces, just as they were a hundred years ago. The body language, posture and physical proximity are also eerily resonant of the classic photos of the Segregationist South or
Apartheid South Africa. And although native and foreigner often work side by side, rarely do they do so together-and certainly not as equals. The only time you do witness interaction between equals is when you see the African leaders, palms greased, laughing and “socializing” with their foreign benefactors- each full well realizing the photo op won’t last forever…
Stan Banos blogs regularly at Reciprocity Failure .
(photo: Paolo Woods)
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