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Soap and Swahili in the mix

Updated: 2014-02-14 09:58
By Ronald Ssekandi and Yuan Qing ( China Daily Africa)

Television plays a role in bringing people together

A Chinese television soap opera, A Beautiful Daughter-in-law, depicting young people's lives in the modern society, is resonating with African audiences who come across the same problems in their families.

Another Chinese TV series, Beijing Love, aired by the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation, is drawing many young viewers.

And to underline the fact that this is not a one-way cultural exchange, China Radio International has aired a Chinese family television series, Nana and Dudu, in Swahili.

Bringing the television series into the living rooms of African families is a direct and vivid display of modern Chinese culture and the common values shared by the Chinese and African peoples.

Chinese TV channels such as China Central Television can be seen in most African countries, and African media have signed content agreements with Chinese media outlets.

Through these television series and Chinese media, Africans are being exposed to China's rich and ethnically diverse culture.

Bringing Chinese culture into the living rooms of Ugandans will facilitate cultural exchanges and skills development, says Rose Namayanja, Uganda's minister of information and national guidance.

"Some of the attributes that make China a great nation are (the people's) hard work, creativity and patriotism," she says. "I trust the films will entertain and mobilize Ugandans to emulate and adopt those similar values."

In addition, Chinese cultural groups have visited Africa to showcase Chinese culture, which is critical in boosting people-to-people relations.

"We can organize more cultural activities," says Zhao Yali, China's ambassador to Uganda. "This is very important if the two peoples and the two countries are to understand one another."

Confucius Institutes serve as another channel for African students to get closer to Chinese culture and learn Mandarin.

Twenty such institutes have been set up across Africa, offering language courses and lectures, exhibitions and performances.

China also welcomes African artists, academicians and young people to see China's rich cultural heritage first hand.

Taga Nuwagaba, a Ugandan artist, says his visit to Nanjing, capital of China's eastern Jiangsu province, left a lasting impression on him.

"When you look at Chinese art it inclines so much to realism. They do not go so much for abstract art.

"When you are a good realist it means that you are also a good impressionist. It means that you do have the means of creating basically anything. When you see an elephant it is not only about the elephant but also the many people it represents."

Africa, like China, must guard its history and avoid elements that can distort it, he says.

Nuwagaba was surprised to learn that the first man to sail around the world was a Chinese named Zheng He, who began his journey in 1405, 87 years earlier than Christopher Columbus.

"It kind of changed the way I look at our history; it kind of changed the way I read history."

China has increased the number of postgraduate scholarships for African students who have returned home with a deep appreciation of Chinese culture.

Mohamed Setimba, who works for Fang Fang Hotel in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, attended university in Shanghai and graduated with a master's degree in international business and economics.

He speaks fondly of China's rich culture and wants more Africans to have the opportunity to enjoy it.

Xinhua News Agency

(China Daily Africa Weekly 02/14/2014 page26)

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