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At The Heart Of The African District Of Guangzhou, The Aim Of a Chinese Photographer

“African communities that you come across here in Canton, are a reflection of our history . They symbolize the modernization of Chinaand globalization” , says Li Dong photographer. When he received us in his large house in the suburbs of Canton transformed into studio, huge pictures of “Chocolate City,” as the Chinese call him African Canton area, cover the walls. Faces, colors and populations that cross without really knowing .

“I first spent two years immersing myself in this district which is so particularly in China, he said.I started to talk with the Africans and settled here in 2013, I started to live with them. I spent two years in this neighborhood. I rented a small room with no window, barely seven square meters. I wanted to live like them. My neighbors that I saw every day were all Africans. There were five families from Congo, Senegal and Nigeria . I ended up becoming their friend andobserve from within their way of life and their integration in the country so far and different from their own. “

Li Dong in his studio in Canton. Credits: Sébastien Le Belzic

Culture shock

At that time, Li Dong paced daily camera photograph in hand, the neighborhood at night, when the streets of Baoan begins to come alive. When the small shops welcome mothersfamily who shop, babies clinging to their backs, and as traders return loaded down with bundles of goods traded by wholesalers in the area.


More than 200,000 Africans transiting Canton every year and almost all live and work in this area full of small markets, malls full of counterfeits and cheap electronics.

But most of the daily life, the clash of cultures that seeks to show Li Dong. Many of his countrymen do not know the African . “A continent synonymous for many of them to violence, drugs and war … The Chinese do not want Africans settle near them. But it is totally unrealistic. China is at the heart of the globalization process. it is the symbol of globalization, especially economically. But culturally, it remains closed, “ he explains.


The mirror of globalization

“The main difficulty of this relationship is the alienation and misunderstanding that surround African migrants in China. It is a rejection of the crop from each other by many Chinese because, you know, Mandarin black meansbeing dirty

The work Li Dong is the mirror of globalization in which China is diving. After having been the cradle of trimmers in the world economy, that China become a paradise for tens of thousands of Africans.

In a market of African Canton area. Credits: Li Dong


The clichés of “Chocolate City” have been around the world . Li Dong expos ed in France , inGermany , in Belgium and throughout China. For him, “Chocolate City” is an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Today, the photographer turns Mama Africa , a docudrama based on a bar of the Canton neighborhood where many Congolese are found. The actors are locals and dialogues navigate between African dialects, French and Mandarin, spoken by the majority of migrants.

A neighborhood undergoing gentrification

“China is changing, said Li Dong, and that’s why I want to capture photos and video in these developments.” The area is indeed in full gentrification. Under pressure from the municipality that wants to make a clean sweep, many Africans have already had to go settle further.

In the district of “Chocolate City” in Canton. Credits: Li Dong

“This place was alive, open to the world . But the government wantedto cleanas he says. What I want to show in my work, it is precisely these Africans have become residents of Canton. They are an integral part of our city. Only their skin color is different. they trade, they eat, they sleep. their children grow up here.failureof integration reflects a failure of China its integration in the world. it’s ironic when you see how many Chinese living abroad, particularly in Africa, “ he concludes.

Sébastien Le Belzic installed in China since 2007. He runs the website Chinafrica. info , a magazine on the “Chinafrica” and emerging economies.

Source: The


Written by How Africa

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