Saturday, August 2, 2008

DeBeers: Exploitation is forever


(Hat tip to Jezebel)

Diamond purveyor DeBeers wants you to get your Africa-inspired bling on. The September issue of Elle magazine features the company's diamond pendants shaped like tribal masks. Hmm, let's see...what part of this is most vomitously offensive?

The fact that Cecil Rhodes, DeBeers' founder was a colonialist and white supremacist, who disdained non-Anglo culture and eagerly participated in the rape of the African continent throughout his lifetime? Wikipedia says:
Rhodes wanted to expand the British Empire because he believed that the Anglo-Saxon race was destined to greatness. In his last will and testament, Rhodes said of the British, "I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race." He wanted to make the British Empire a superpower in which all of the white countries in the empire, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Cape Colony, would be represented in the British Parliament. Rhodes included Americans in the Rhodes scholarships and said that he wanted to breed an American elite of philosopher-kings who would have the USA rejoin the British Empire. Rhodes also respected the Germans and admired the Kaiser, and allowed Germans to be included in the Rhodes scholarships. He believed that eventually Great Britain, the USA and Germany together would dominate the world and ensure peace together. Read more...
Is it the hideous pan-Africanness of the trinkets? They are not true representations of any African culture or specific tribe. I would bet that the pendants' designer knows nothing of the animal spirit masks of Burkina Faso, or the religious, ceremonial masks of the Yoruba or Igbo. DeBeers is offering diamond-encrusted, co-opted culture--exoticized and commodified. The company is selling generic baubles to be worn (let's be honest) by people with no African heritage and no interest in the plight of the continent.

No...no...I think the worst part of this is the hypocrisy of DeBeers, a company that has played a major role in the bloody history of diamond mining and its devasting affect on African nations and peoples, trafficking in Africanized diamond trinkets. Says Dodai at Jezebel:

But De Beers (which controls about 40% of the world diamond market) built its company on the backs of "poorly-paid, abominably treated native African workers," and is often accused of human rights violations and illegal mining operations.
Watch this segment of a nine-part video developed by the International Rescue Committee on a trip to West Africa:

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