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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Africa at the Shanghai Expo 2010

Only a few African countries can afford to have self-built pavilions: Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa, Angola and Nigeria.  The rest have pavilions within the enormous African Joint Pavilion complex.
 
The Moroccan Pavilion is a magnificent Moorish palace, while Egyptian and South African pavilions attracted huge crowds for the deserved fame of these countries - of history for the former and World Cup for the latter.  The Angolan pavilion is not only informative about the new oil superpower that is the Angola of today but also has a nice 4D documentary film about the country. The Tunisian pavilion is also popular for its display of the country's rich culture and archaeological finds.  The Libyan pavilion never seemed to be opened...
 
While some of the pavilions within the Joint Pavilion are well-manned by their own nationals and well set up and organised (e.g., Mauritania, Kenya, Tanzania, Cape Verde, Namibia), many are mere glorified souvenir stores of African tourist trinkets or even abandoned space with the ad hoc photos and poorly labelled artifacts.  All except Burkina Faso was represented.  I suspect some of the poorer African countries did little then to send the Chinese some photos and videos and leave it to the Chinese to decorate the pavilions.  That explains the many Chinglish captions in some of these pavilions.  The joint pavilions also contain a huge bazaar area selling assorted trinkets and African style fashion accessories that seemed to have captured the attention of Chinese female visitors.  The common area of the Joint Pavilion also contain so-called thematic exhibits that betray Chinese popular impressions and imagination of Africa.  The massive sculpture at the entrance area is named "typical African faces" showed stereotyped African faces with a wide variety of tribal markings and headdresses, despite the reality that most Africans today live in cities and dress like you and me.  The exterior of the Joint Pavilion shows images of animals of the African savannah, which once again conforms to Chinese stereotypes and popular imagination of Africa.
 
 

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