Contribution by Toufic Beyhum.
Toufic Beyhum has spent a good deal of time in Namibia and has watched first-hand how globalization has reached into African society. In particular, he has seen the impact -the quiet colonialism- of two global superpowers, the USA and China. In these three sets of photographs, he explores the impact these countries are having on Africa.
Series 1: Chinese Afro Combs
A phrase you hear a lot in Africa is that “the Chinese are taking over.” And the number of Chinese investments and loans across the continent provide the fuel that fire these claims. To comment on this supposition in an artistic sense, Beyhum reinvented the African afro comb with a Chinese variation. The history of the afro comb dates back thousands of years, having served as a status symbol and even being used for political comment (eg. the famous ‘Black Fist afro comb of the ‘70s). For Beyhum’s project, he 3D-printed combs which featured the Chinese words for Wealth, Benefit and Development. With this simple image he is commenting on how China is influencing everyday life. And besides, there’s a good chance that afro combs these days are manufactured in China.
Series 2: Seller’s Baskets
A common sight in Africa is that of women balancing large items on their heads whilst they walk. Market sellers, in particular, can be seen sporting baskets piled high with fruits, vegetables and other saleable goods. These baskets were originally hand-woven, but have slowly been replaced with plastic or aluminum baskets bought in Chinatown, or the local Chinese Mall. For this segment of his Quiet Colonialism project, Beyhum portrayed the types of items that Africans prefer to buy these days. It’s no longer about traditional foods and crafts, but Western junk food, sneakers, and other high-turnover goods.
Series 3: African Fast Food
Beyhum has noticed that in Windhoek on payday, the streets are littered with junk food packaging. It appears that fast food is the preferred option over traditional foods if one can afford it. In rural areas, though, traditional foods still get consumed in large quantities. Certain foods, however, have become the domain of tourists looking to experience something ‘traditional’ and ‘wild’. Foods that have a ‘gross-out’ factor are regularly featured in reality TV shows, cooking shows, Instagram feeds and YouTube channels.
Mopane worms, chicken feet and chicken heads are examples of such foods. For the adventurous tourist, however, Beyhum has packaged them in a familiar Western manner. His choice of Disney plates is based on the prevalence of Disney-themed birthday parties and the popcorn container is a deliberate choice, commenting on the popularity of Hollywood movies at the theatre, at the expense of African-made stories.
Check out the GUAP Arts & Culture section, to discover new art, film, and creative individuals.
Contribution by: Toufic Beyhum
Photographer & Creative Director: Toufic Beyhum
Hair & make up: Kulan Ganes