China and Zambia look to the future as ties celebrated

作者:YANG FEIYUE来源:China Daily

A colorful dance performance during the Beijing event.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Edward Chabu flew all the way from the Zambian capital Lusaka to Beijing to attend the 2024 China-Zambia Culture and Tourism Year, which kicked off on May 11.

The Zambian music lecturer sang and danced onstage in multicolored traditional attire and makeup, and amazed the audience, especially with his rendition in Mandarin of the Chinese folk song Jasmine Flower, which he sang with a Chinese artist.

"In addition to the duet that shows our friendship, we have prepared four shows and cut them short and pieced them together for the audience," says the musician in his 20s.

"They are all traditional performances featuring instruments from different parts of Zambia. We want to show our country's culture as much as possible to the Chinese audience."

Chabu studied music at the Nanjing University in Jiangsu province between 2016 and 2021 and is now a music lecturer at the Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka.

"China is my second home, and I am here with my fellow musicians to share our musical traditions," Chabu says.

A Chinese artist delivers folk song Jasmine Flower at the opening ceremony of the China-Zambia Culture and Tourism Year in Beijing on May 11.[Photo provided to China Daily]

"I hope China and Zambia will continue to share stories through song and dance, and I'd love to see more Chinese people travel to Zambia to enjoy its music and explore the country," he adds.

The bilateral culture and tourism year seeks to boost relations through people-to-people connections and spur cultural and artistic cooperation between China and Zambia, according to authorities.

Sun Yeli, China's minister of culture and tourism, Rodney Sikumba, Zambia's minister of tourism, and Ivan Zyuulu, Zambia's ambassador to China, address the opening ceremony.

Approximately 100 people from both sides of the tourism industry were present.

"Zambia appreciates what the People's Republic of China has done in the last 60 years to help it develop," says Sikumba.

China has worked together with Zambia on the construction of the Tazara Railway (an 1,860-kilometer railway that connects Tanzania and Zambia), and a series of infrastructure projects, such as the Mukuku Bridge (over the Luapula River) and the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in the capital.

A work by Zambian artist Enock Sela.[Photo provided to China Daily]

"All these projects stand as monuments to the enduring friendship and collaboration between China and Zambia," Sikumba says, adding that this was further evidenced by the state visit of Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema at the invitation of President Xi Jinping in September last year.

During the visit, the two countries issued a joint statement on establishing a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.

In it, they applauded the results of cooperation in culture, tourism, education, public health, youth, think tanks, media and sports, and agreed to enhance cooperation. Both sides also decided to designate 2024 as the Year of Culture and Tourism.

The Chinese side expressed appreciation for Zambia's visa-free policy for Chinese tourists. The Zambian side thanked China for listing Zambia in the second group of pilot countries for outbound group tours by Chinese travel agencies, and welcomed Chinese tourists to Zambia. Both also agreed to further facilitate exchanges of personnel.

As a result of the state visit, Zambia has proceeded to ease visa restrictions, allowing visitors from China to enter the country visa-free, Sikumba adds.

Matongo Matamwandi, CEO of Zambia's leading travel organization, the Zambia Tourism Agency, promotes the country's tourist attractions at the opening ceremony.

Rodney Sikumba, Zambia's minister of tourism, addresses the opening ceremony.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Matamwandi says that Zambia is famous for its natural beauty, diverse wildlife and vibrant culture, including the Victoria Falls, home to one of the world's largest curtains of falling water, 20 national parks inhabited by more than 1,800 animal species, and 73 tribes coexisting in peace and harmony, with their colorful cultures and traditions.

"We've seen a very high increase in the Chinese travelers to Zambia," says Valerie Mpuku, tourism promotion manager at Zambia Tourism Agency.

"China is one of the key source markets, so we're going to grow the numbers and take advantage of China's large population and traffic to come to appreciate our beautiful country," Mpuku says, adding that discussions about facilitating travel and offering special services to Chinese tourists are under way.

At the opening ceremony for the culture and tourism year, eight paintings of African tribal masks and sculptures by Enock Sela drew the attention of curious Chinese participants.

"I came to the event out of gratitude," says Sela who now works as an artist in Shanghai.

The artist in his 20s is from the small Zambian village of Kashikishi — located in the country's northwestern part — and has chosen to stay in China after finishing studies at a university in Jiangxi province.

Chinese visitors show great interest in Zambian handicraft items at the Beijing event.[Photo provided to China Daily]

"The paintings are a representation of my beautiful country, which is blessed with cultural and innovative elements, while the sculptures represent China becoming my second home," Sela says.

"When I discovered these disposable materials in my Shanghai neighborhood, they reminded me of my childhood and inspired me to make art," he says.

"The most obvious is dry grass. I discovered this material in China, but it is used to make mats in Zambia, which my family used when we sat outside in the evening under the light of the moon while my mother told us stories, a memory that's with me until today," he adds.

He hopes his work will pique the interest of more Chinese travelers to explore the beauty of Zambia and its people.

Sela says he's lucky to have the support from Chinese agencies to open a studio in Shanghai where he and his peers can showcase their culture through their work.

He hopes the bilateral cultural and tourism year will bring more Zambians to the country, so they can also discover its vast opportunities.

The Victoria Falls is one of Zambia's natural wonders.[Photo provided by Uldiszile/GETTY IMAGE]

"I wish to continue to learn about Chinese culture and use every resource available to me to enrich the cultural exchange between China and Zambia, as well as pass knowledge and opportunities on to the younger generation of Zambians," Sela says.

Sikumba says Zambia is also eager to learn from China's rich cultural heritage and impressive tourism development.

"Your centuries-old traditions, your architectural marvels, and your innovative approaches to sustainable tourism hold valuable lessons for us," he says.

"This yearlong celebration will provide ample opportunities for us to exchange ideas, share best practices, and forge new partnerships."

He says he'd reiterate that as the two countries commemorate 60 years of China-Zambia friendship, it's time for renewing the commitment to deepening the two countries' cultural and tourism ties for the next 60 years.

"By working together, we can unlock new avenues for tourism growth, create meaningful exchanges, and inspire our people to explore the wonders that our nations have to offer," he adds.