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Chan'ad Bahraini

(Scomberomorous maculatus Bahrainius)

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Faceless workers

Thursday, October 14, 2004

I've tried on a few occasions to take some good photos of the expat labourers in Bahrain who can be seen building this country's roads and houses. But no matter what I do the pictures never come out right. The problem is that it is very hard to capture the details of their faces. It's not just with pictures,... see if you can make out the features of their faces then next time you drive by them working on the Seef flyover. It's quite difficult. One reason is because they have dark skin as it is due to their ethnic backgrounds and their working in the sun. The other reason is because underneath Bahrain's scorchingly bright sun, the pupils of our eyes contract (and we wear sunglasses) making it doubly difficult to see their faces. And on top of that, most of the workers will wear some sort of headgear to provide some shade for their faces, which makes it even harder for the onlooker to capture their facial expressions.

And so they live their lives on the island faceless, with no identity to anyone who doesn't belong to their ilk. Thousands of them enter the country, and thousands of them are sent back to their homes every year, but it doesn't make a difference to anyone else. So long as there are always enough of their kind to continue doing the dirty work, it doesn't matter what their names are or what their faces look like.

I find it both interesting and sad that foreigners have no real place in the cultural imagination of "Bahrain". Despite the long history that expats have of contributing to the island, if you ask someone about "Bahrain" you will find no mention of them. If you look at Bahraini art that is supposed to portray "Bahraini life" you will see no images of foreign workers. If you go to the National Museum you will be hard-pressed to find any expats in the displays, even though they will be sweeping the floors and cleaning the bathrooms in that very building.

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1 Responses to 'Faceless workers'


Blogger Scorpio says:

Aten't these faceless foreigners a security threat to the region, as the esteemed Minister of Labour, Mr Majeed Al Alawi, was telling everyone who would listen yesterday?

This guy cannot open his mouth without saying something offensive or contradictary, whether its about NGOs, human rights or now expats.

This facelessness - whether its Indian expats or women veiled up - is very dehumanising, making it easy for dumb officials to make these sort of remarks, or next door's leaders to deny them the vote.    

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