Jacob Charles Wilson

Contact

Interview – Sean Alexander Geraghty

for Paper Journal
A young man wearing the silk costume of a wushu martial artist crouches in front of a mural of a chinese temple.

Barrio Chino de La Habana was once the largest chinatown in Latin America, made by indentured labourers brought over to replace African slaves on the sugar plantations of Cuba. Yet like many in the west, photographer Sean Alexander Geraghty knew nothing of Barrio Chino when he first visited Cuba. Over the past few years he's returned to photograph the residents and record their stories of this diminishing quarter - perhaps surprisingly for the socialist country, gentrification is pushing out many long-established Chinatown residents in favour of tourist-friendly restaurants. Through his photographs I get the sense of a minority group certain of their past, but less so of their future.

They're trying to create something that doesn't exist. I mean, Cuba is not 'Chinese' at all, but they make it happen. It's the case with all the Chinatowns around the world, it’s a small 'China' in a foreign city. There’s an artist who creates impressionist style Chinese scroll paintings. He's never seen a real scroll painting so he paints from online images and books and reproduces his own versions.