© Paolo Woods, 2019.
 

CHINAFRICA

In the last decades more then a million Chinese have moved to Africa, a continent from which people tend to emigrate from. 

 

To quench its thirst for oil, its hunger for copper, uranium, and wood, the government in Beijing is sending Chinese state companies and adventurous entrepreneurs to Africa.

 

For the thousands of Chinese who have emigrated in the last decades, Africa holds the promise of a 21st century frontier. Some have struck gold and run conglomerates spanning large regions of Africa, others are still selling cheap goods along the burning hot roadsides of some of the poorest countries in the world.

 

For many Africans, the arrival of the Chinese is perhaps the most important event since the old colonial rulers left decades ago. The Chinese do not act like the former colonialists. They build roads, dams, and hospitals in exchange of raw materials—and they win over the people. They speak of neither democracy nor transparency—and they win over the rulers.

 

I have documented the Chinese stirring up Africa, accompanying them along the railroads of Angola, through the forests of the Congo and the karaoke bars of Nigeria. 

From the barren countryside of Central China to the leather armchairs of African ministries, I have tried to capture the quest of the Chinese who came to Africa to make their fortunes and who invested their lives and their money in a continent that many in the West have long considered fit only for handouts.

 

As I worked I tried to develop a visual language that mixed the content of classic photojournalism with portraiture photography but that also played with elements of colonial imagery and the propaganda photography so dear to the Chinese establishment.

 

These are rare images. Getting access to the Chinese in Africa was the most difficult assignment I have ever undertaken. The Chinese want to keep a low profile on their business activities in Africa. I hope these photographs portray a phenomenon and a new dimension that is not just a product of globalization but also its ultimate realization.