Searching for identify:
China’s future inspired by the past
The emergence of the cultural groups such as Mulhako wa Lhomwe and Mzimba Heritage have sent eyebrows up, with many speculators pointing fingers at notion of domination by some tribes due to the political or leadership roles of some of their tribesmen.
To the contrast, China is finding its inspiration from its past and diversity of its people, that harnessing the culture and promotion of all cultures and heritages seems to be growing big everyday as Kondwani Munthali found out in his recent visit to China.
China is too big, with 1.3 billion population, a single political system, but its cultural symbols remain part of its traditions and pride for a generation that has been able to sent its people to the moon and building great modern facilities not even the United States of America has been able to at the moment.
But Beijing the capital to the remote City of Zhenjiang in Jiangsu province, Chinese people are proud of their culture and their history.
Zhenjiang, two hours away from the commercial city of Shanghai has a lot to offer at its Museum and a walk through Xijindu Historical and Cultural street, where artifacts as old as 300 years remain in display and millions of Chinese people come and pay respects to their past.
The most interesting element is that they are both young and old, and a walk on the Xijindu street include old routes, houses and Chinese music plays throughout. Pictures of their historical figures hang around including the dragon symbol of the old emperors.
This is in remote part of China and one would think the people there are justified to hang to the past as they have nothing much to do. To the contrast, Zhenjiang is a modern city with manufacturing plants if various sectors including Hengshun Group the world’s largest Vinegar plant.
“It is the past that we find out how our people adopted and created own lives even using big rivers and instruments in our communities. We learn how to adopt and preserve our heritage without going backwards but learning from it,” says Li Wang, one of the guides on the tour.
From Zhejiang, the trip takes one to Nanjing the capital of the province which is a former capital of the Nationalists of the Kuomintang which now make up Taiwan. Apart from the modern structure, a boat trip on its rivers in an ancient designed boat tells you of a story inspired by the past.
The same is true when one visits landmarks in other major cities including Beijing’s Great Wall and Forbidden City. You are allowed to dress like some of the warriors at the Great Wall of China, a not to be missed wonder of the world.
The story of Forbidden City, the palace of some great dynasties are a celebration of culture and heritage, their symbols being Dragon for the Emperor and a Phoenix for the Empress, while the guides speak of the ruler who had up to 55 concubines.
From preservation, one outstanding element in China is the preservation of language and the proud display of their dances. Some educated Malawians would feel inferior to speaking their local toungues such as Lhomwe, Yao or Tumbuka a trend fast seen being adopted by the young generation.
The Chinese speak mandarin, even their officials who would start a conversation in English will only speak their official language. This is also found in French, Russian and German leaders when they travel home. Speaking your native language does not make one inferior.
The talented dances on China captivated the opening of the Olympics in Beijing in 2009, so too it was the same story as singers who included the famous actor Jackie sang in their language, danced in their mother steps and mesmerized the high turnout with their love and pride of their heritage.
In China they are restoring most of their past buildings and preserving their history. They dress, eat and want to imitate their forefathers in some way as they built the Great Wall and many great pieces of art across the country.
To the contrast, Blantyre Old Boma buildings are rare used, never cherished and very few young Malawians visit any of the country’s few museum.
The historical sites such as the Jumbe mosque in Nkhotakota, grave sites of early missionaries and many of our old symbols including the old Capital rarely get a mention in our documentaries or literature as places worth a visit.
While high dignitaries would clap hands to the dragon Dance in Beijing, they feel ashamed to go and watch Gule wa Mkulu or Tchopa worse still to speak any language or dress in any attire that will be seen as “primitive.”
Some are too ashamed to put “ntoliro” on their menu while Chinese happily put crabs and
Primitive, may be, but many great nations who have made it have learnt and cherished from their past. Perhaps China is a classic example, that you can only sale and excel in life with own identity.
Who will search for Malawi’s identify in our music, dress, food or heritage?