George Shum, owner of the Chinese Pagoda Restaurant in Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Portrait of George Shum: A Chinese-Zanzibari Entrepreneur

I first met George Shum, owner of Pagoda Restaurant, surrounded by ubiquitous Chinese restaurant paraphernalia: red-tasseled symbols of good fortune, golden good luck cats and a fish tank, in which lobsters and other sea creatures awaited their fate. It is the only Chinese restaurant in Stone Town, the old quarter of Zanzibar City.

At first glance, I assumed that the 44-year-old entrepreneur belonged to the substantial community of Chinese citizens that had begun to forge a life for themselves in recent years in East Africa. But when I asked where he was from, he replied in a thick Cantonese accent: “Wo shi sang ji ba er ren” — “I’m Zanzibari.”

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A Chinese intellectual’s response to Xi’s New Year message to overseas Chinese students

In response to President Xi Jinping’s New Year message to overseas Chinese students at Moscow University, a Chinese academic based in Cape Town shares his experiences from the Cultural Revolution, his thoughts on China’s development, and encourages China’s young generation to work hard for “mankind’s common prosperity”. Permission was given by the Chinese intellectual to translate and publish his thoughts – first shared in a closed social media group for overseas Chinese students in South Africa – on WhoKou. Continue reading “A Chinese intellectual’s response to Xi’s New Year message to overseas Chinese students”

Postcards from China: A South African Documentary

Postcards from China is a documentary series that was produced for South Africa’s eTV, first aired in 2011. “The Art of Learning” (below) is one of four episodes, and follows the pursuits of three South Africans living in Beijing and Shanghai between 2008 and 2011, one of whom is me.

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Vacation in the Third Space: Chinese tourists travelling on a European Cruise to African islands

This is a presentation I gave on 1 February 2018 at the “Africa-China/China-Africa mobilities” workshop at the University of Cologne. In Vacation in the Third Space: Chinese tourists travelling on a European cruise to African islands, I ponder the issue of cross-cultural communication and understanding, drawing on the concept of “Third Space” (Bhabha, 1994). In the case presented, Chinese tourists, the Asian staff on the cruise ship, and residents of the islands visited (Mauritius, Seychelles, and the Reunion island) were able to create a ‘Third Space’ and engage in genuine conversations, despite cultural differences and ignorance.

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Lingling’s Chinese New Year

Twenty-four year-old He Lingling just spent her second Chinese New Year away from China. It was also her second Spring Festival in her temporary home in Cape Town, where she has been working as a teacher at the Confucius Institute at the University of Cape Town for the past year and a half. Although she badly misses her family and her hometown in a small town in Sichuan at this time of year, she has also found a sense of belonging among new friends and colleagues in a Cape Town suburb, her home away from home.

I asked Lingling what she misses most about Chinese New Year, and what her last two holidays in Cape Town have been like.

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Ms Fang in her Chinese curio shop in Cape Town

Ms. Fang’s Chinese New Year: Story of a middle-aged woman in Cape Town

Isabella Fang is showing off a range of festive red and gold envelopes adorned with the character fu – or “wealth” – in her Chinese curio shop on Cape Town’s Atlantic coast. It is the day before Chinese New Year’s eve, or Spring Festival, when red envelopes (hong bao) filled with money are traditionally given as gifts to children and older relatives.

An estimated 385 million people are returning to their hometowns in China this year from wherever in the world they are working or studying, making it the largest human migration in the world.

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Don’t make the same mistakes as I did: Letter from a Chinese father – Part II of II

Part II follows Don’t make the same mistakes as I did: Letter from a Chinese father – Part I, a letter that was written by Cape Town-based Mr. Chen to his son C.S.Y., who came to South Africa in 2015 to study at a local high school.

C.S.Y., my son:

You are given a healthy body by your parents. But if you don’t exercise properly, your body will weaken. Do you still remember what I used to say to you repeatedly when you were a kid? “I am a real man.” I am glad that you are equipped with a good body that can qualify you as a man. But your inner self is still lacking. It takes an eagle many failures and attempts over a long period of time to be able to fly high in the sky. You can continue your life living like a pregnant woman, but if you want to stand strong in the world and go wherever you want to go, you must have a healthy body and mind. Continue reading “Don’t make the same mistakes as I did: Letter from a Chinese father – Part II of II”

Don’t make the same mistakes as I did: Letter from a Chinese father – Part I of II

This letter was written by Cape Town-based Mr. Chen to his son C.S.Y., who came to South Africa in 2015 to study at a local high school. Mr. Chen sent his son the letter while C.S.Y. was back in China visiting his mom and grandparents in his hometown in Sichuan during the 2017-2018 school holidays. Mr. Chen stayed behind in South Africa for work.

Permission was given by Mr. Chen to translate and publish part of the letter on WhoKou.

C.S.Y., my son:

How are your holidays going at home? How do you feel about seeing your grandparents? People say that you cannot buy time with gold. Time flies, and here we are – you have become a grown man! When you first came to South Africa, I set a goal for you to master the English language. You have spent 15 months in South Africa, but how much English have you learnt? You seem to have spent far more time on computer games than learning the language.

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Master Liu, the Kung Fu teacher at Zambia's Confucius Institute

Portrait of Teacher Liu: A Chinese Kung Fu teacher in Lusaka – Part I

Teacher Liu’s Intermediate Chinese class was due to start five minutes ago, but there’s no sign of him or any of his students. The University of Zambia’s Confucius Institute is growing quiet as the afternoon descends on Lusaka.

Just then, a short, stocky man with Emporio Armani emblazoned across a maroon sweater strolls into the lobby with a sling bag on his shoulder. “Are you Teacher Liu?” I ask. “Yes…” he replies, with something between a guilty and a naughty expression on his face.

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The Berlin Wall, Germany

This is my era

There and then: Places and moments that shaped my here and now – Part III of III

Berlin, Germany, 2014

It started to rain when I arrived at the Berlin Wall, so I sat down at a cafe nearby. In the past few days, I had been randomly checking out segments of the Berlin Wall here and there, but in front of the cafe, I saw that one part of it was original, and protected as a historical site.

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