Monday, June 11, 2018


‘If you’re the Crouching Tiger, then I’m the Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow
My martial arts skills are not just for show’
- Alexander Nderitu, ‘Who Spoke?’ (poem)

Alexander Nderitu at the Confucius Institute, University of Nairobi

Nairobi, Kenya -- A set of four poems by Alexander Nderitu are among the first works by a Kenyan writer to be translated into a Chinese dialect. The poems, some previously unpublished, are: The Clouds, If I Were a Calypsonian, Someone in Africa Loves You and The Last Great Russian Poet. The verses were written in English and translated into Chinese by the International Poetry Translation and Research Centre (IPTRC).

Due to the People’s Republic of China’s reputation as a ‘closed society’, translations of this nature are extremely rare. Besides text-books and other non-literary material, the first-ever Chinese-to-Kiswahili translation of creative work of literature is believed to have taken place as recently as 2016. The text was a poetry book byveteran Chinese writer Jidi Majia, titled Words of Fire From China (Kiswahili: Maneno Ya Moto Ya China). Speaking at the launch of the translation, Prof. Kithaka Wa Mberia – a poet, playwright and linguistics lecturer at Nairobi University – predicted further literary exchanges between the two countries:
‘We should not just translate literature from the big powers. Hopefully, some Kikuyu, Pokomo, Kiswahili poetry will also be read in Beijing or Berlin or elsewhere because someone translated it.'

He further went on to explain the importance of the discipline of translation:

'Many influential works have come to us through translation - Neruda (Spanish), Pushkin (Russian). Nyerere brought Shakespeare to us...When we understand other cultures, we minimize suspicion and misconceptions.’

Sino-Kenyan ties have grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years, as exemplified by the various mega-projects that the Kenyan gov’t has carried out in partnership with the Chinese. These include the Madaraka Express standard-gauge railway system, the Nairobi-Thika Superhighway and other infrastructural/construction works. Culturally, the Chinese are also making inroads into the Kenyan psyche. Present in Kenya are book publishers, broadcast stations like CCTV/CGTN Africa, StartTimes Pay TVservice, the China Daily newspaper, Chinese restaurants, and various learning institutions all over the country that teach Chinese language and culture. Nairobi was, in fact, the first African city to host a Confucius institute. In Behind the Belt, a short documentary about China's cultural influence in Kenya, Dr. Kamau Wango, director of the Confucius Institute in Nairobi, stated:

‘I keep on saying that China is becoming a very important country. A very important economic power...China is the second-largest economy in the world today. And therefore getting to know their language and culture is very, very important.’

It is noteworthy that Sino-Kenyan relations actually date back centuries. Chinese voyagers have been known to visit the East African coast since the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Some are even believed to have inter-married with locals after surviving a shipwreck near the islands of Lamu and Pate, and being unable to return home. New China TV investigated the claims of Sino-Kenyan bloodlines and delivered the following televised report:

According to Statista, nearly 1.3 billion people speak a variation of Chinese as of 2018 (mostly Mandarin dialect). However, Chinese is by no means the most widely-spoken language in the world, as it is almost entirely confined to the People’s Republic and Chinese immigrants. According to Ethnologue, ‘English is far more widely spoken than Spanish or Chinese. English is established in 106 countries, compared to 37 for Chinese and 31 for Spanish.’

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Below are some more videos on Sino-Kenyan cultural ties:
The 19th International Book in Nairobi, hosted by publishing companies from both Kenya and China: 

Chinese Culture Taking Kenya By Storm: 

Chinese infrastructure: A beacon of hope for Kenya: 

Chinese teacher imparts culture through dances in Kenya:

Kenya- China culture festival promoting smoother operations: 

Chinese companies in Kenya want to use cultural exchange to tightening trade ties: 

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