Of Forever, Diamonds and Africa

 I haven’t been diamond shopping lately so it was really fun to be sitting in the library looking through the DeBeers website, as people around stopped and gaped at my casual shopping spree. ‘De Beers? Is this girl serious?’ Lets be serious, I can’t afford buying socks right now, let alone diamonds even if they are forever and a way better long-term investment. In any case, the diamonds I own are Forever too though…Forever 21. Hohaha.

The midterm reading, and links both included DeBeers. I’ve always been interested in DeBeers, and its history especially in Botswana with regards to their economic stake in the country and negotiations with the government (a nice old 50-50%). Blood Diamond despite the criticism that may be levied against it, definitely awoke a new consciousness which now makes many ask when purchasing a diamond, of its origin for fear of it being a conflict diamond (although DeBeers forever diamonds are self-proclaimed 100% conflict free) Anyway, browsing through the DeBeers website I was specifically looking for a ‘sites’ page and a social responsibility disclaimer. Its funny that on the About DeBeers page for instance theres not a word on where DeBeers operates: even KFC writes where their questionable chicken comes from (or at least lies about it) but its there on the website. If youre shelling out 3000 dollars for a diamond, especially online, wouldn’t you perhaps want to know where it came from? Anyway I did however then stumble across three other gems – these videos on the website on the ‘origin of diamonds


Please do go check them out. DeBeer’s wont tell you where its mines are, how many people it employs – but it will concoct delicious African folk-tales complete with tribal names, African drums, the rhetoric of violence, high pitched sinister laughs and the tales of the ‘gods’. This is the diamond odyssey according to DeBeers, where the narrator talks of an anonymous letter-writer, a he (signifier alert!) who tells the story of Gugujuchu, a ‘trickster’ who stole the diamonds and in his glee began to do a ‘wild dance’. Upon being caught by Memalaga, after the sounds of spirits and the ocean, and owls and the river have soaked his experience, he drops the diamonds and they fall to the sky. The letter-writer then adds the following P.S, says the narrator ‘Dear DeBeers, please become the new guardians of the benevolent spirits’ – and so DeBeers did what they were told, like all good diamond miners, and listened to the African tale-writer. I shudder: the word guardian, benevolent spirits, geez louise.

One of the other videos, the valley of the diamonds also cloaks the origin story, this time we are told how DeBeers gets its diamonds. No miners do that for them, it’s the Diamond Phoenixes who rise up amidst their own ashes and venture into the depths of the craggy landscape which hides the secret diamonds, and puts them in the reach of humans. Oooo-kay. And DeBeers in nurturing these diamonds upholds an ambiguous ‘promise of eternity’ in so far as these diamonds are eternal.

The last one though tries to make scientific inquiry into the Origin of diamonds but this too is replete with ‘imagine’. The words the narrator uses for the creation are so interesting: a primitive practice, of unprecedented violence which take place in the very ‘heart’ of the earth. Then, jungle birds sound, and we are told this heart, a process of which each diamond is a survivor, is the very heart of darkness – Africa [mandatory elephants walk across savannah upon the word] Africa, says the narrator, is the ‘cradle’, and thus it comes to be so, that in all ancient civilizations (Egypt is shown twice, Indian art the other, Stonehenge for a brief second): the diamond came to be forever.

Back to the advertisement campaigns we read about which made such a luxury into a necessity through this language of forever.


One Response

  1. Wow. I watched the video-story, an incredibly fanciful story it is.
    I share your shudder at the words “benevolent” and “guardian”, for some reason those words remind me of the west’s justification of colonization of Africa. And diamonds and other natural resources also seem to be tied into the west’s problematic relationship with Africa.

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