The hollowing out of the countryside
December 17, 2010 6:11 PM   Subscribe

Burial & Flight I BEGAN THIS SERIES TEN YEARS AGO in rural Kenya. When I started photographing, I thought I was working on a localized story about how HIV was destroying African society. Over the years, as I broadened my travels to China and Mexico, I began to see similarities in the composition of villages wherever I went. Only later did I fully realize that the quiet moments I documented in the African bush, Mexican plains, and majestic Chinese mountains represented small pieces of a great shift.
posted by metagnathous (5 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It was interesting to see the similarities that he found in all the different places he visited.
posted by garnetgirl at 6:37 PM on December 17, 2010

They hungered for a freedom that transcended everything.

They hunger for an image they have seen on television screens. What they will find will most likely be something more like slavery than what they seek and much more like slavery than what they left.
posted by localroger at 6:56 PM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Jake price home page with sets from Iraq, China, Uganda, Kashmir, New York, and New Orleans. More from Price in Haiti on the BBC. Riding the rails in Lecheria on the BBC.
posted by Ahab at 7:57 PM on December 17, 2010

So basically what we are seeing is the demographic transition in progress. Just as the U.S. did, other countries are undergoing a movement from the country to the city. It's easy to be nostalgic about the loss of the rural lifestyle (especially if it involves glossing over what the rural lifestyle actually entails), but this is part and parcel of the process of becoming and industrial country. It's not that I'm anti nature or farming or open air or whatever, but the future of a prosperous country will be in the city. If we make it to a long-term generally prosperous future, it will involve the vast majority or people living in cities.
posted by happyroach at 10:42 PM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

There are massive shifts occurring in these places. I wouldn't be so sure that it all has to do with television screens; recall that cheap, ubiquitous communication by cell phone is now a reality in most of the world. When someone moves away from a village into the city, they likely still have close contact with their families, and describe in some part the process of transition. People see the choice between subsistence farming and making two dollars a day in the city, and they choose the city.

I just returned from two weeks in Kenya, mostly spent at Maseno University, with some trips into the nearby city of Kisumu and a few days on the road, as well. I had the feeling that people had little expectation of social mobility; riches and power result from being close to those who fight their way into power, and only a very few people are capable of that. Unlike the US, I don't think anyone in Kenya has the illusion that any old Joe can become the CEO of Nakumatt (the local equivalent of Walmart). That said, Kenyans are pretty enthusiastic about education, and want their kids to be educated so that they can do well in life. In fact, the main educational system uses boarding schools, often very far from where any particular child grows up. This already gives kids a pretty extensive experience away from their home areas, before they go home and decide whether to stay or leave again.

I've only been back for a week and I'm constantly boggled by the over-simplistic images people project onto Africans...
posted by kaibutsu at 11:08 AM on December 18, 2010

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