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Stabroek News

Chiney Bump and Nubian Knots
published: Wednesday | November 15, 2006

Hilary Robertson- Hickling

One of the hairstyles which utilises fractal geometry common to corn rows in African hair is the Chiney Bump. The hair is parted into different geometric shapes and rolled into bumps. For many women it still represents a radical departure from the straightened extended look which is common to women of African ancestry.

African hair has created problems for those who have tried to pass as European. This has driven many to extreme lengths as they appear beweaved, bewigged, blond or blue. Apparently the name comes from the fastening which is common to Chinese clothing. Perhaps this is symbolic of the courtship currently taking place at a meeting in Beijing - one's bump is the other's knot.

The first Sino African Summit is being staged in China and some in the west are worried ostensibly for fear of problems about the promotion of human rights. Fortunately, China has been so pragmatic that it claims that it does not mix economics and politics. African leaders are exploring the ways that they can benefit from China's wise stewardship. Not only does China have the largest foreign reserves of U.S. dollars in the world - a trillion I believe - but the Chinese have the highest per capita rates of savings in the world.

Chinese arms trade

The Chinese built a railway in the 1970s in east Africa and have cooperated in a number of ways. There are those who speak about Chinese arms trade in Africa, but many western nations have been arming Africans for centuries and doing the same thing that they now complain that the Chinese are doing.

Those who have used concepts like the 'yellow peril' are now being forced to observe and try to get in on China's rapid rates of economic growth. Those who have held a 47-year blockade on our Communist neighbour are now rushing to China.

A knowledge of history will provide us with the insights that China was poised for economic take-off in the 19th century, but that Britain used various stratagems and promoted the Opium War to stop them. China has learned its lessons and now is unstoppable.

We here in Jamaica have a lot to learn from the Chinese who came here as indentured labourers and continue to come in new waves today. We observe their tightly-knit families, their frugality and their Confucian ethic. So whether they are in China, or San Francisco, that philosophy of hard work, the involvement of their children in the family enterprise and the lack of concern for what others think of what they eat and what they wear is evident.

Conspicuous consumption

Instead, many of us are engaged in conspicuous consumption which keeps us in debt and trying to keep up with the Joneses, as well as teaching our children to be consumers instead of producers.

Father Ho Lung, who was honoured by the University of the West Indies at last week's graduation, has spoken of the freedom which Jamaica gave him to be creative, and I think that the marriage of Jamaica and China has borne many interesting fruits.

Ray Chen will be showing photographs of Jamaica at a major exhibition in Beijing, and Norma Harrack the master potter will be there for a month and will have an exhibition next year. Donald Quarrie has been engaged by the Chinese government for athletic coaching. Crossing cultures can only expand our world and there are many benefits which can be derived. The positives far outweigh the negatives and I look forward to visiting China in the future.

Hilary Robertson-Hickling is a lecturer in the Department of Management Studies at the University of the West Indies.

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