In his short film Excuse me, while I disappear, artist Michael MacGarry tells of an imaginary city in Angola that has become a reality.
Kilamba Kiaxi is a city financed by Chinese companies, which sprang up from nothing to provide 210,000 people with a new home. Its shape and size echoes the hundreds of cities that have appeared out of thin air in China over the past few years. However, in Angola, a country where 68% of the population lives on less than $1.70 a day, only a few people can afford the newly built flats, the cheapest of which cost around $98,000. This means that, in many areas, Kilamba Kiaxi feels like a ghost town – but a ghost town with very real consequences. China has ensured a return on its 3.53 billion dollar investment by securing future oil deliveries by Sonangol, the national, state-owned Angolan oil producer. The oil price has been fixed in advance, risk-free and contractually guaranteed. The protagonist of Excuse me, while I disappear works in Kilamba Kiaxi; he sweeps the empty streets of the city. The camera accompanies him on his journey from the city centre of nearby Luanda and witnesses how he escapes the daily routine by daydreaming. He creeps into an empty apartment, where he embraces the global consumer lifestyle the Chinese have created in Africa. He watches television. Finally, he disappears from the roof of the apartment building, to which he is originally drawn by the noise of the midday signal. In his film, MacGarry connects the European tradition of ethnographic cinema with African science fiction and a Chinese visual perspective. His movie reflects on the impact of external influences on African societies and the everyday life of individuals. Traditionally, these external forces came from Europe – now they come from China.