Tan­za­nian film­maker Martin Mhando, who is also CEO of the Zanz­ibar In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, shares his ex­pe­ri­ences in China

ChinAfrica - - Lifestyle - By Julie O’yang

We can eas­ily say that every Tan­za­nian the­ater group to­day has its past in cul­tural ex­changes with China and Chi­nese ac­ro­batic com­pa­nies sent to Africa.

A film is a lan­guage, says Martin Mhando, Cu­ra­tor and CEO of the Zanz­ibar In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val (ZIFF), “be­cause a film is about break­ing nar­ra­tive con­ven­tions, and about di­ver­sity.”

Mhando loves films. He loves mak­ing them and cu­rat­ing them. His first full fea­ture Maangamizi: The An­cient One is a 2001 Amer­i­can-tan­za­nian drama co-di­rected with Ron Mul­vi­hill, an Amer­i­can di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy and film pro­ducer. After pre­mier­ing at the Pan African Film Fes­ti­val the same year, it was screened in 55 film fes­ti­vals world­wide, win­ning sev­eral awards.

Mhando, an old friend of China, has a long en­gage­ment with China, with his first trip to Bei­jing dat­ing back to 1976. His up­com­ing film Ni Kunga,a love story be­tween a young Chi­nese and a Tan­za­nian woman at the time the Tan­za­nia-zam­bia Rail­way was built, will be com­pleted in 2017.

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Chi­nafrica, Mhando shares his ex­pe­ri­ences in China and his ideas on cul­tural ex­changes be­tween China and Tan­za­nia.

how do you see cul­tural ex­changes be­tween China and Tan­za­nia? Martin Mhando: China and Tan­za­nia have en­joyed a long and friendly re­la­tion­ship dur­ing the past decades. The close ties be­tween the two coun­tries are rooted in his­tory. One no­table high point is the 1,800-km Tan­za­nia-zam­bia Rail­way, which was built with the help of China. Africa needs, and has al­ways needed, tech­nol­ogy for its de­vel­op­ment. I think noth­ing is wrong with that. In many ways, my per­sonal ca­reer path has echoed the African call for open­ness for op­por­tu­ni­ties in both cul­tural and busi­ness as­pects. China is ready to pro­vide all that.

My the late first visit to [China] was in the year Chair­man Mao Ze­dong died. In 1976, I went to Bei­jing and paid homage to that giant of ideas. I felt I had a real con­nec­tion to the place.

When China was try­ing hard to re­sume its le­gal po­si­tion in the United Na­tions and fi­nally achieved the goal in 1971, among the African coun­tries that sup­ported this mo­tion, Tan­za­nia played an ac­tive role. To­day, the two coun­tries still main­tain close ties. Of the five East African Com­mu­nity mem­ber states, Tan­za­nia con­tin­ues to at­tract the most Chi­nese investment.

You re­turned to China many times in the years to fol­low. What brought you back again? It was … soap opera. Dur­ing the past decades I vis­ited var­i­ous Chi­nese me­trop­o­lises, such as Bei­jing, Shang­hai, and Guangzhou. More re­cently, I was in­vited by the Yun­nan Minzu Univer­sity to make doc­u­men­taries on lo­cal sub­jects and mainly present the African point of view on China’s mul­ti­cul­tural life.

I have worked in the city of Yuxi in China’s south­west­ern province of Yun­nan as a film­maker and guest lec­turer at the Yuxi Nor­mal Univer­sity. I used well-known soap op­eras to teach my Chi­nese class of film­mak­ers about nar­ra­tive struc­ture and con­ven­tions. I must say it was an ef­fec­tive way of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with my Chi­nese col­leagues and stu­dents, who didn’t speak English well. In the end, they were keen to par­tic­i­pate and were less shy and re­served. So that was my bit in “liv­ing your life as a soap opera!”

You brought Africa to China. Did you bring China to Africa? It has al­ways been my mo­ti­va­tion to work more and more with China and Chi­nese sub­jects.

Back in 2008, a dance group from Qing­dao [a city on the eastern coast of China], at­tended the ZIFF and brought Zanz­ibar an un­for­get­tably spec­tac­u­lar show in­clud­ing ac­ro­batic acts. In­tro­duced in the

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