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Kenya, China celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations

By Tebby Otieno September 11th, 2023 3 min read

For two nights in a row, a section of Kenyans witnessed Chinese artists rapidly changing their moves as they traditionally portrayed their culture before films came into play.

The audiences found themselves in an auspicious atmosphere as part of activities commemorating Kenya and China’s 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

The two-hour live opera performance at the Braeburn School’s theatre room on Gitanga Road drew theatre enthusiasts. Those who attended told Nairobi News that seeing the Chinese opera helped them better understand Chinese culture, opening the door to better people-to-people relations between Kenyans and Chinese.

“The reason why I came today is because I am interested in Chinese culture. I started learning Chinese in 2017 and I am also hoping that one day I might have Chinese clients. By knowing the language I’ll interact with them better and even learn Chinese law,” says Elsa Maina, a law student who attended the Chinese opera live performance.

Lilian Majuma, an International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) teacher of music at Braeburn School, was another Kenyan who witnessed and agreed to speak with Nairobi News. She says she attended the Chinese celebration because of her work at an international school.

“Chinese music is part of the course work that usually is there in world music. Being an international school we emphasize on accepting all cultures so when we teach music of different cultures the acceptance of that culture becomes easier,” says teacher Majuma.

Chinese people are known to be proud of their culture, which they express through movies and operas to help others understand their values. The country is also rich in culture and innovation.

This 60th anniversary drew hundreds of Chinese from within the country as well as those from outside, who either performed or became audience members. The coming together allowed them to remember how their forefathers lived. There were dancers, musicians, and actors/actresses.

Suona Solo, also known as Picking Dates, is a popular Chinese folk instrument performed. It is commonly used in celebratory settings because it is a festive song of happiness with crisp and resonating tunes. The melodies are passionate and depict an enticing scene whose piece describes the people of Northern China during the autumn season.

Other Chinese operas performed included the “9-Pieced Segmented Dragon” Traditional Performance, accompanied by unique local melodies. Du Xiangjun, an instrumentalist who guided the live performance, told Nairobi News that this particular performance includes various moves such as dash, leap, flip, dive, roll, and lean choreographed into this energetic performance that perfectly portrays the active sea-dwelling dragon.

“I arrived in Kenya a few days ago for this important performance to let people know what we are doing. We appreciate the opportunity,” says the deputy captain of the 29-member opera performance group.

This performance also offered Chinese living in the country, both young and old, the opportunity to spend time with their families. Shen Yuangi, for example, is a construction worker in Nairobi who has been in the country for over eight years.

“As a Chinese and you know Kenya is my second country, I also feel it’s an honour to help my people to show our cultures into Kenya because sometimes even because I work and live here and I love Kenya. I really appreciate my people to come here for the show,” Shen Yuangi told Nairobi News.

The iconic Global Trade Centre in Westland, the Nairobi Express Way, and the Standard Gauge Railway are all part of the infrastructure projects accomplished through bilateral collaboration with China under the Belt and Road Initiative.

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