Monthly Archives: February 2016

[Blogs] From Africa to China: Counting Stares

By Wadeisor Rukato for From Africa to China

I started to write this post on the sixth day after my arrival in Beijing in August 2015. I finished it almost six months later on the 30th of January 2016. I am happy to finally be able to share it.

Today is my 6th day in Beijing, China. I feel as though I have been here for considerably longer. Since my arrival, my days have been filled with everything from trying new food, doing on campus admin, looking for parts for my laptop, getting medicals done for a residence permit, drinking Chinese beer and learning Chinese. The sun has shone relentlessly at a high of least 32 degrees Celsius since my arrival and the days have been divided into those with clear blue skies, and those with a smog induced milky white sky.

Before I left South Africa I received all manner of preparatory and survival advice, tips, secrets and information from friends, family and acquaintances. While some of this advice was considerably insightful, some of it I listened to and dismissed quickly because it seemed loaded with generalisations that I didn’t feel comfortable adopting in the absence of personal experience.

I am a young black woman from Zimbabwe who grew up in South Africa. I have dark skin. This being known, I can’t count on one hand the number of people who warned me to prepare to be stared at, photographed, poked, prodded or marvelled at. This advice sounded dramatic at the time. I spoke to my dad who had travelled to Guangzhou recently, and his experience seemed mild enough.

In any case, I found it worthwhile to write about and share my experience of being stared at since I got here. I have mostly found it amusing and also very interesting. Staring is not a habit unique to any one group of people. While some people stare more often than others, one usually stares at something when it is different, curious, intriguing, confusing or stands out. On the other hand, people also stare out of shock, amusement or disgust.

Given my observations, the greatest number of stares has come from young children, the elderly and men. Some stares are brief, and quickly broken by the eye contact of my reverse stare (which I am gradually perfecting I might add). Other stares are long, brazen, and include a slow and deliberate up down scan with the eyes.

Now, if there is such a thing as a level up to staring, it would be the aggressive picture taking. I was amused by the poorly-executed attempted discretion of the first photo taker. Said lady pretended to be looking at something on her phone, which she held up at face level. She maintained this odd position as she probably tried to focus the image and had to turn around as I walked past to get the shot.

The second photo taker tossed all discretion out of the window and pointed his little digital camera right in my face before casually proceeding. I experienced a sense of genuine amusement after both incidents. I also experienced a sense of shock because I had formally been dismissive of the fact that might be photographed in this way.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 2.42.25 pm

I stopped writing, until eight days later:

8 days after beginning this piece, I have a total of two weeks lived experience in Beijing. The stares are no longer surprising. I have now digested the reality that part of looking so different in what is an incredibly homogeneous society are the reactions to that difference, in whatever form they may come.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 2.42.35 pm

With race issues being particularly personal for me given my up-bringing in South Africa and Zimbabwe, I now intend to more actively explore the nature of the race discourse in Beijing and maybe even China. This will include looking into the existence and character of colourism among Chinese people.

The last two weeks have exposed me to one or two other things I was either told about or read online in preparing for my stay in Beijing. One of these is related to the forewarning or alert about the frequency of gob and saliva spitting in public. While I find this particularly disgusting, this does not happen as often as I had feared it would (gratitude is endless in this regard). The noisy churning of gob from deep in ones throat and the subsequent spitting of this gob on the walkway, at the base of a tree or wherever really, does however happen a lot more than I would like or than I have ever experienced.

The Associate Dean of the program I will be undertaking summed up my current experience of Beijing quite perfectly. The jist of what he said is that, Beijing is the kind of place where in one sitting you can have can have an experience that reinforces and affirms your love for the city and its charms. However, very soon afterwards, you might have an experience that makes you feel the complete opposite way. It is really a topsy-turvy, dynamic place that needs to be experienced beyond what is apparent at face value.

Six months later, I finally finish this piece as I prepare to post it on the blog:

Picking up and learning the eccentricities of a new place, weather pleasant or not, is generally always an exciting process. In the six months since arriving in Beijing, there has been no end to the various opportunities the city gives you to learn it and be confused by it. Reflecting on my first two week’s perceptions of is so interesting because when asked about my stay in China thus far, I no longer really feel the need to talk about stares or saliva because there are so many other more interesting things to talk about.



[Blogs] From Africa to China: African in China

By Sihle Isipho Nontshokweni

Nǐ shì nǎ guó rén? This is one of the first socially useful questions that I learnt to ask and answer in my Chinese class. Whilst making small talk with the Chinese guy at the dinning hall, I eagerly showcased my ability to answer this question, in Chinese; “Wǒ shì Nánfēi rén.” To which he responded “Aaah, oww you come from Africa.”

Yes, yes, South Africa….have you–ever–been–anywhere–in…. Africa?

“No-no-no, Africa too hot, too hot.”

The ideas that germinate and take root in the minds of people when you say ‘Africa’, often include a desert like region, one that’s “too hot, too hot.” This distressful weather is usually compounded by her chaos and poverty.

The question of how China regards Africa and how Africa regards China is a weighty and complex question, one worth exploring in our conversations… The character for the Chinese word for Africa, “fei” (非),  means “to not be; not have; not; wrong; incorrect; lack.” Zahra Baitie in her blog asks the poignant question, “why (was) another character with the same sound and tone but a more positive meaning not used instead?”

My time is China has forced me to engage the complex ways in which Africa has been seen and written about. As a black African in China, as a black African anywhere in the world– I suppose,  one commonly carries the weight of such stereotypes. As though one were a part time ambassador for the continent and race at large. On this diplomatic mission, the aim is to dispel theories, recounting lists of men and women who have demonstrated “black excellence” as though that would finally validate  and assure the listener of the continents capacity.

“recounting lists of men and women who have demonstrated ‘black excellence’ as though that would finally validate  and assure the listener of the continents capacity.”

Books such as ‘Africa is not a country’ by Margy Burns Night and talks such as ‘the danger of a single story’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie  have  sought to dispel these inaccurate representations.

Representations of a people whose only job is picking fruit and growing corn. A people who live in the wild-wild, roaming the streets in the company of  elephants, tigers, lions, zee-bras, giraffes. Men with spears hunting for prey to feed tribes. Men so occupied by the wild. So ravenous in their desires, that after a day of being followed by the sun, they indulge… fighting wars on beds with their multiple sex partners.

Others often ask me what it is like to be an African in China? Once, after a strange encounter at the subway I described the stares I received from two jolly looking ladies as: “It was as though, their souls popped out of their eyes when they saw me.” This was the best way to explain the experience. It seemed they were horror struck or… in awe.

In a country where light skin is prized and pursued, I wasn’t sure if they thought I looked burnt or just unusual with my brown skin and nappy hair.  This is a strange thought for someone who usually qualifies as a yellow bone in Winter. The stares have not stopped, they usually follow with stolen snap shots. Despite these issues, people touching your hair, souls popping through eyes, I have felt a warm welcome and friendliness in this country. Smiles on closed looking eyes.

Growing up in South Africa where skin colour shaped my identity and reality, it would be easy to associate the snap shots and stares with racism. But more often than not, I suspect its ignorance than a racist attitude, from never having interacted with a black person before. This perspective makes being a perpetual attraction, less burdensome.

I have been fortunate enough to meet several Africans living in Beijing. Our conversations closely engage this question of being an African in China. What I have found, is that being different can  bolster ones opportunity to learn more intricately both about themselves and society. The contrasts experienced here, make living in China as an African a curious, frustrating yet a fascinating learning experience.

Taken from here

[Sports] The Africans are coming: is the Chinese Super League the next big thing for African players?

Amid the massive uproar that several shocking moves caused over the winter in the international soccer market, here’s a list of some of the most renowned African players that have recently made it to China – along with a reminder that these players are indeed NOT pioneers in China’s soccerscapes.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 6.20.26 pm

Mbia completed a move to Hebei China Fortune for a fee estimated at around £7m

List of current African players in the Chinese Super League


Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 6.13.55 pm

In 2015, Asamoah Gyan completed a move to Shanghai SIPG for an undisclosed (massive) fee

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 6.32.53 pm.png

According to the Mail Online, out of the 2016 top 10 players in the Chinese Super League, 9 are ‘black’ and 5 hail from countries in Africa.

Notwithstanding all the novelty of Chinese sides acquiring great players, African soccer players in China are indeed nothing new. For decades now, Africans from all over the continent (and all walks of life) have played in the country, albeit at an amateur level. The history of ‘Afrika United‘, a Pan-African soccer team in Beijing, is evidence of the evolving ‘African’ (and international) grassroots soccerscapes in China. Have a look at the media report below and, if interested, you can also watch this documentary, read this academic article, or listen to this podcast.


Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 6.57.36 pm

[Series] ‘One Child’, first ever BBC show portraying ‘Africans in Guangzhou’ #SinoAfrica


‘One Child’ is a new BBC TWO drama which has the stabbing/murder of an African in Guangzhou as a starting point. The show, however, is not so much about the murder of the African dude, but about a moment in the life of Mei (23) – a British woman who has to save a brother, who she has never met, from the death row.

The narrative line of the drama focuses on Mei trying to help her brother – who has been wrongly accused of the murder (of an African DJ outside a bar). Typical ‘China issues’ that eroticise Western audiences (and China bashers alike) are involved: Human Rights, One Child Policy, Death Penalty, Corruption, broken legal system (i.e. #antiChinaPorn). Having said that, other more interesting and real issues like those pertaining to the precarity that poor (internal) migrants have to live through are also portrayed.

While Nigerians in Guangzhou play a secondary role in the show, the representation of their ‘community offices’ seems pretty accurate.

For those of you in the UK, the show is available here. Outside bloody Britain, you can watch it through a VPN!

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 1.09.08 am

[Blogs] From Africa to China (in a nutshell) – A NEW #SinoAfrica blog

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 11.49.05 pm

From Africa to China is a new blog run by four southern Africa graduate students in China. As stated in their ‘mission’, these four ladies are on a quest to ‘revamp the landscape of Africa by dissolving existing stereotypes and using our knowledge and experiences to add value and contribute to the bigger strategic thinking plan for the growth of Africa’. By the looks, something worth to keep an eye on!


Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 11.56.33 pm.png

Wadeisor Rukato is a Zimbabwean who has lived in South Africa for the past 19 years. She graduated from the University of Cape Town with a Bachelor’s Degree (Honours) in International Relations and wrote her Honour’s thesis on the effects of migration on development in Zimbabwe. Wadeisor aspires to work at the intersection of consulting and journalism on Africa in the future.

Thuthukile Mbanjwa  is a South African from Kwa-Zulu Natal. She holds both a Bachelor and Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Cape Town. Her focus area is civil infrastructure. She intends to use her knowledge in infrastructure economics to contribute to growing South Africa’s economy and greening Africa’s construction industry.

Nothando Khumalo is a Swazi from Manzini. She graduated from the University of Cape Town with a Bachelor and a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering. She specialized in transportation and plans to go back to Aurecon when she completes her studies. She wishes to work in an environment, or on projects that combine civil engineering with economic development, policy planning and sustainable development.

Sihle Isipho Nontshokweni is a South African from the Eastern Cape. She is completing her Masters in Political Science at the University of Cape Town. A unifying theme in her research has been the motivations for and barriers to Youth Development. Sihle aspires to play an integral role in the formulation of entrepreneurial education, building curricula that can equip the youth with entrepreneurial skills to develop their communities.

[Sports] Football : le grand mercato de la Chinafrique #SinoAfrica

Par Sébastien Le Belzic (chroniqueur Le Monde Afrique, Hongkong)

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 9.11.24 pm


L’année du singe qui débute en Chine va-t-elle sonner le véritable coup d’envoi du football business dans l’empire du Milieu ? Jusqu’aux derniers jours, le mercato a ressemblé aux courses de Noël : les clubs chinois auront dépensé cette année 259 millions d’euros, soit davantage que le championnat anglais.

Selon un rapport de la FIFA, la Chine a été le sixième marché le plus dépensier en matière de transferts en 2015, se plaçant derrière les cinq plus gros championnats européens. « Ils ont les moyens de faire venir les meilleurs joueurs du monde. Il y a des clubs qui ont beaucoup d’argent comme Shanghai, Canton et Pékin. Seulement cinq joueurs étrangers sont autorisés par équipe et donc ils prennent les meilleurs », nous explique l’entraîneur français René Lobello qui vient de passer une saison au Shanghai Shenhua. Dans ce même club en 2012, et pour un salaire mirobolant, Didier Drogba avait essuyé les plâtres avant de partir pour Montréal.

René Lobello assure que les joueurs africains sont bien intégrés dans un championnat chinois qui représente une étape de plus en plus importante et lucrative dans une carrière de champion. « Ce n’est plus une voie de garage et on trouve en Chine de nombreux joueurs jeunes et talentueux. » Tour d’horizon de ces stars africaines venues grossir cette année les rangs des clubs chinois.

Les nouveaux arrivants

Gervinho au Hebei China Fortune FC. L’international ivoirien quitte l’AS Rome où il aura joué deux saisons et demie. Il s’est engagé pour trois saisons avec le club de Hebei China Fortune FC. Triste nouvelle pour l’Olympique de Marseille et le FC Porto qui lorgnaient Gervinho. Mais l’offre mirobolante de la Chine n’a pas fait hésiter le joueur très longtemps. L’équipe chinoise a déboursé 18 millions d’euros ! Une « expérience »comme l’explique l’attaquant

[continuez ici]



[Music] Sierra Leonan singer Mariatu Kargbo with ‘Marry a Chinese’ #SinoAfrica 嫁给中国人

While much attention is paid to male (mainly West African) singers in China. Sierra Leonan, Mariatu Kargbo has been performing in China for several years.



By Wu Xiujie, for (2012) 

Mariatu Kargbo, a 5 feet 8 inches tall mixed-race girl from Sierra Leone, is now a singer based in China. People here have given her the nickname Luminous Black Pearl Maria. In China, luminous pearl is regarded as a symbol of nobility and happiness and is often used as a metaphor for beautiful and loving young ladies.

In 2009, Kargbo became the only contestant in the Miss World history to win two awards in the same section – Miss World Talent and Miss World Dress Designer. She is regarded as a super star in her native Sierra Leone.

While talking with Kargbo, one can easily feel her gentle temperament, intelligence, open mindedness, and mature personality which perhaps has much to do with her difficult childhood period.

Kargbo was born in Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone. “My father passed away when I was three months old. And my mom fell ill while giving birth to me,” Kargbo said, “I had to engage in some small businesses in the street, like selling ice water, to support my family and make money for my schooling.”

“But the money earned this way was far from enough. I then started to sing and dance when I was eight years old. I went around with a performing group to different countries to perform, model, sing and dance,” she said. As Kargbo struggled to make a living, she did not know that a life-changing opportunity was awaiting her 6,000 miles away, in China…


Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 10.00.47 pm