The installation titled “赢得 – Win” a fusion of Chinese and English words, looks into the relationship between China and Africa. On one hand, the research project under the theme “ChinAfrika” buttresses the misrepresentation of the African continent in European narrative as a single entity and country while under more scrutiny, it sorts of re-affirms this thinking in the Chinese strategic approach to the continent. 赢得 – Win is my reaction and interpretation of the China-Africa affair. The primary material used for this piece are discarded cement sacks, from Dangote company, the biggest cement manufacturer in Nigeria, and they were sourced from construction sites to create an Agbada, a four-piece male attire worn by the Yoruba people of South-West Nigeria and the Republic of Benin. This installation consists of the (large free-flowing outer robe), the (an under vest) and the (hat).
The contains a belt made of aluminum sheets with the inscription “CCECC” an acronym for the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation which handles Chinese construction projects across Africa. While the colour Blue is used by the company, the belt was designed to reference wrestling/boxing belts and in this case, it’s symbolic for how there is a constant fight for Africa’s resources amongst the Chinese, Lebanese, Indians, Europeans and Americans. The ‘CCECC’ inscription on the belt might indicate the role of China as a winner in this ongoing bout but at ‘the same time it also highlights how China is strangling Africa. The also has two pockets which each contains 27 pieces of N5 notes. While the use of the N5 note engages the “cheapness” and/or “affordability” tag attributed to the Chinese alternative, the 54 pieces on the other hand references the member states of the African Union (AU).
The is a piece that contains texts written in black and red ink, by different traders in markets across Lagos who have had encounters with China. The piece becomes a collaborative effort with these traders who are experts on the China-Africa discourse; they were my primary source of engagement with the research process as they provided me with a raw and undiluted personalized view. By writing the texts in Igbo, Yoruba, and Pidgin English, there is a rebellious stance being adopted and the issue of communication with regards language is touched on.
, the concluding piece in the 赢得 – Win installation involves attaching coral beads on a helmet and the work takes multiple symbolisms. The head is the most important part of the body in the Yoruba culture so it’s expected to be covered both physically and metaphorically. departs from both a historical and cultural point, and its appropriated in this project as a chinese attempt to protect its head in getting the better of the deal in its relationship with Africa.
Where the Europeans scrambled for the continent with its “Partition of Africa” at the Berlin conference over a century ago, it seems a new wall of China is now being built but it’s unfortunately on African soil. And just as we now live under the impact of the European invasion of Africa, the next hundred years will reveal if this current relationship between Africa and China is a win-win one.