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September 18, 2010

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Visitors' many faces leave their stamp

IN Edward Araya's eyes, Chinese people are extremely curious to see, to touch and to interact.

The 49-year-old photographer and designer from Eritrea is on his first visit to China and the people have left him with several impressions, some pleasant, others making him confused and sad.

Araya has been working at the World Expo since April and has taken more than 100,000 pictures of visitors to the event.

An exhibition of his work opens at the Africa Joint Pavilion today.

Every day at the Eritrea stand, Araya sees numerous people come and go. Some can't resist sitting on the traditional Eritrean leather chairs, despite the clear "Do Not Touch" sign, some can't help touching the traditional mesob, a dining table woven out of straw displayed on the stand and others just queue up for a stamp.

It was the Chinese people's frenzy to have Expo stamps that inspired Araya to take his pictures. As an official who would stamp Expo passports more than 60 to 70 times a minute, Araya captured people's faces with different emotions -- happiness, anger, disappointment -- when asking for a stamp.

"During the soft opening I saw visitors interacting with all kinds of exhibits," Araya recalled. "After the official opening when the passports were issued and sold to all visitors, I felt sad because all the interaction and culture exchanges were gone with the wind."

Araya is also required to pose with many visitors.

"Maybe they don't have much chances to see African people in China," he said. "They pose with me as a souvenir."


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