Paolo Woods


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CreditsCourtesy of the artist

Paolo Woods’ Chinafrica is a series of photographs that document one of the 21st century’s major, if least appreciated, developments: the rise of Chinese colonialism in an Africa that remains poor for the majority of its people but still functions as the cradle of others’ wealth. In framing Africa as an enormous, continental development site, this photographic project speaks about much more than the current shift of power from the West to the East.

Portraying human subjects caught in an emerging global division of labour, Chinafrica offers a stunning archive where images are able to speak for themselves – as is rarely the case. The two photographs included in the ECONOMY exhibition show a black African man holding an umbrella over a Chinese man speaking on his mobile and a Chinese man standing out of a crowd of black African workers at a construction site, assured in his leadership role. If proof was ever needed about colonialism not being a matter of skin colour but being, ultimately, a flexible framework for the exploitation of man by man, Chinafrica is on the task. Woods’ painstaking documentation attends to the ascendance of a new gendered and proudly classed economic subject of global import: the Chinese male entrepreneur abroad. He may not bust one’s ears about democracy but he brings jobs.