BEYOND BOR­DERS

An African del­e­ga­tion vis­its China to learn from the coun­try’s ex­pe­ri­ences in cul­tural man­age­ment, Wang Kai­hao re­ports in Shen­zhen.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE | CULTURE -

Last week, when Beni­nese fash­ion de­signer So­nia Da­mala saw a dig­i­tal ex­hi­bi­tion of fres­coes from the Mo­gao Grot­tos at Artron Art Cen­ter in Guang­dong province, she was im­pressed by the preva­lence of dig­i­ti­za­tion in Chi­nese mu­se­ums.

The use of vir­tual re­al­ity in the show in Shen­zhen city made her ex­pe­ri­ence even bet­ter.

While Da­mala and many other peo­ple from Africa have had some ex­po­sure to China’s rich cul­tural tra­di­tions, they can now learn more about the coun­try’s cul­tural man­age­ment in mod­ern times through the One Thou­sand Peo­ple Plan, a Chi­nese gov­ern­ment project that aims to train African of­fi­cials and oth­ers re­lated to cul­ture.

“I am thor­oughly ex­cited,” Da­mala said in Shen­zhen ear­lier this month. “It is great to see a mix of high-tech chan­nels while pre­sent­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion on tra­di­tional cul­ture.”

Such shows will en­cour­age Africans to adopt bet­ter meth­ods for the in­her­i­tance of their own cul­tures, she added.

Da­mala was among the 30 del­e­gates from 10 French­s­peak­ing African coun­tries, who came to China on Dec 4 on a week­long train­ing pro­gram on cul­tural cre­ativ­ity in Shen­zhen.

The pro­gram was part of the three-year Chi­nese Min­istry of Cul­ture project to help African coun­tries to train 1,000 peo­ple by the end of 2018.

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping pro­posed the plan at the Jo­han­nes­burg Sum­mit of the Fo­rum on China-Africa Co­op­er­a­tion in De­cem­ber last year.

Dur­ing the Shen­zhen pro­gram, del­e­gates vis­ited the coun­try’s lead­ing cul­tural en­ter­prises in the city, in­clud­ing in­ter­net gi­ant Ten­cent Hold­ings Ltd, art printer and data­base provider Artron, and top an­i­ma­tion com­pany Huaqiang. They also at­tended lec­tures and events.

“We have seen that many aban­doned fac­to­ries have been turned into art zones,” says Adama Diallo, an ex­hi­bi­tion cu­ra­tor and art agent from Sene­gal, who was also on the team.

“Such ex­pe­ri­ences of Shen­zhen of­fer us new ideas to make full use of our cur­rent venues to pro­mote fine art, like build­ing artists’ vil­lages,” he adds.

More co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and Africa will fol­low, he says.

For these cul­tural pro­mot­ers, the project is also a way to change any stereo­types about Chi­nese cul­ture that may ex­ist in African so­ci­eties.

“In the 1960s, when I was a small kid, I of­ten watched Chi­nese films, which were screened out­door in my vil­lage,” re­calls Mar­tial Gouale­ban­zoume, an art de­signer for mu­se­ums with the Min­istry of Cul­ture of the Repub­lic of Congo.

For most peo­ple in his home­land, for ex­am­ple, that was the first time when they had a “clear view of how China looks”, says the de­signer, who was also vis­it­ing China.

But there are still many peo­ple in Africa whose im­pres­sions of China are caught in time, he says.

Gouale­ban­zoume con­sid­ers it an op­por­tu­nity to let peo­ple know about the de­vel­op­ment of mod­ern Chi­nese cul­ture by shar­ing his ex­pe­ri­ences in Shen­zhen.

“African cul­tures are so di­verse,” Gouale­ban­zoume says. “When we or­ga­nize ex­hi­bi­tions, we of­ten want to ex­pose them all. Nev­er­the­less, Shen­zhen’s ex­pe­ri­ences have told us that we’d bet­ter choose a rel­a­tively small an­gle and re­fine the cul­tural prod­ucts with more ex­per­tise.”

Henri Ran­dri­an­ier­e­nana, a theater man­ager from Mada­gas­car who was also on the team, says the rise in dig­i­tal de­vices in his coun­try has en­abled youth to bet­ter un­der­stand mod­ern Chi­nese cul­ture.

“In Mada­gas­car, young peo­ple are also glued to their smart­phones all the time, much like the sce­nario in China,” he says.

“I am sure that if (video) games and so­cial net­work apps from Shen­zhen were in­tro­duced to Mada­gas­car, they would be ex­tremely pop­u­lar.”

Peo­ple long held stereo­typ­i­cal per­spec­tives of China be­cause the world’s tra­di­tional me­dia, which is dom­i­nated by the West, pro­jected China in such images. But new tech­nol­ogy has now cre­ated the space for Chi­nese and Africans to com­mu­ni­cate di­rectly and bet­ter, he says.

With more Africans un­der­stand­ing Chi­nese cul­ture bet­ter, Ran­dri­an­ier­e­nana says a mech­a­nism to send more Chi­nese cul­tural pro­fes­sion­als to Africa will also be­come nec­es­sary.

Con­tact the writer at wangkai­hao@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

pro­mote com­pre­hen­sive part­ner­ships be­tween China and Africa.

From mar­tial arts and in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage pro­tec­tion to mu­seum man­age­ment, the pro­gram of­fers a wide range of choices to trainees.

Be­fore be­ing held in Shen­zhen early this month, the ses­sions were im­parted at mar­tial arts schools, art hubs, uni­ver­si­ties and other cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions in the cities of Bei­jing and Tian­jin, and the prov­inces of He­nan, Liaon­ing and Sichuan.

The China Cul­tural Cen­ters in the African coun­tries of Benin, Mau­ri­tius, Egypt, Nige­ria and Tanzania are hold­ing train­ing ses­sions, which have at­tracted more than 200 par­tic­i­pants.

PHOTOS BY WANG DEJUN / FOR CHINA DAILY

African del­e­gates visit an in­cu­ba­tor for young en­trepreneurs in Qian­hai, an eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment zone in Shen­zhen.

African trainees ex­pe­ri­ence in­ter­ac­tive mul­ti­me­dia fa­cil­i­ties pro­mot­ing tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture in Broad Link Cul­tural & Cre­ative, a de­sign com­pany based in Shen­zhen.

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