Kaide Mall.

Shibei, China, 2020

Our neighbourhood mall, a consumerist temple consisting of eight glitzy levels, has a yellow teddy bear as its totem. Effigies of this cuddly golden idol are displayed in all shapes and sizes in almost every shop window, restaurant, elevator and restroom, from the odorous basement to the tackily terraced roof.

The reason for this is unclear. Perhaps it’s part of some outlandish, ironic voodoo that aims to separate mandatorily masked shoppers, ready for the stick-up, from their hard-earned digital cash. In a land where spiritual famine is soothed by all manners of material excess, it doesn’t take much. Everyone’s always on the lookout for some good ol’ retail therapy to snuggle up to.

All being said, the mall has become like a second home to us. It has the only decent grocery store for miles around, and the dumpling place knows our order by now. Sometimes, when we’re bored, hungover, or both, we just wander around, dizzy from the carbon monoxide accumulating in our muzzles, and giggle like glue-sniffing teens at unwittingly naughty chain store names like Elf Sack, Hotwind and Chlitina. My woman also teaches English to young tots on the third floor who, by the looks of things, will form the new master race of a brave tomorrow. She doesn’t always find this easy, but I like to remind her that it’s good to feel useful.

Imagine my surprise some weeks ago, then, when I discovered yet another buttery bear in front of the building’s slick eastern facade, donned no less in a medieval warrior’s get-up. Against what new devilry was he guarding the proud commie-capitalist citadel so fiercely?

The smug little fucker knew something. And there was no way for me to get it out of him.
Sadly, I have never learnt to speak teddy, and I am yet to master Chinese. All I have here is the language of light.

And, these days, there seems little left to do but read between the lines.

© Jac Kritzinger.
For photography, visit http://jackritzinger.co.za/
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