December 15, 2006

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh (Chinese) Christmas Tree


Hey BAG, can’t you just enjoy a picture without having to get so caught up in politics?  C’mon, where’s your holiday cheer?

Héctor Mediavilla — one of those fine, up-and-coming Spanish photographers you’ve met in Barcelona — captured these stunning images of Christmas in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo.  And sure, he thinks it’s ironic the Christmas toys, trees and trinkets come courtesy of the good-hearted subsidization of the Chinese.  But he can also see the spirit, the wonder, and the shining faces, too.

But I already know what you would say.

You would bring up (or, at least suggest, in that subtle and clever way you always do it) that the Congolese are being taken advantage of because an energy-starved China is getting thirty per cent of its oil from Africa, mostly from Sudan, Angola, and, yes, Congo-Brazzaville.

I don’t know, BAG.  You always find the dark cloud inside the silver lining.  Like Scrooge,  you would surely mention that Chinese investment in Africa largely underwrites war, weapons and civil rights abuses, particularly in countries like Sudan and Zimbabwe.

On top of that, I could see you asking why the Congolese can’t manufacture these Christmas items themselves … since they must be aware cheap Chinese imports have already wiped out whole industries, especially textiles, in places like Lesotho and South Africa.

And because I know you, you would also find some way to bash America’s corporate class  … and, somehow, even work Iraq into it.  Yeah, you would probably say something cute, like:  America’s fat cats were so badly distracted by the war on terror that Mickey Mouse, Tweedy Bird, a thousand Barbie’s clones and even Santa, himself — the whitest man on the face of the earth, for crying out loud — are now fully employed as Chinese trade emissaries.  (And, you would say that even if those fat cats were making plenty off the war economy, and you were largely a globalization critic.)

But look BAG, you can fight all the battles you want, but no one beats Christmas.  And even if you have a problem with that, I know one thing we would agree on.  That is: there’s no better gift (especially at this time of year) than a great eye and excellent pictures.

Bon Nadal!

(For full view, click on the thumbnail)

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To BAGreaders: Héctor will be available in the discussion thread to discuss his knowledge of Brazzaville, where he has done quite a bit of work; what it’s like there at Christmas time; his experience taking these photos; or anything else you would like to ask.  As with all the photographers featured here, Héctor is particularly interested in your reactions and feedback.  By the way, you can view the full series here.

Images from the series: AFRICAN CHRISTMAS MADE IN CHINA. All photos © Héctor Mediavilla/  Used by permission.

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