by Matheus Tuhafeni Michael
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries”- Aldous Huxley
Traveling opens up your understanding of people and the society you live in…
My Name is Matheus Tuhafeni Michael a.k.a Boom, born in Olukonda village in the Oshikoto region but raised in Swakopmund, Namibia. I’m a music educator, composer and vocalist, currently a student at the College of the Arts studying African Performing Arts. I was selected to represent the College of the Arts at the First China Namibia Vocal and Dance training program for two weeks sponsored by the People’s Republic of China Embassy in Namibia and the Cultural Ministry of China. It was held on the 14th to the 28th July in Nanjing, China and was China’s capital city about 2000 years ago.
I had the task at hand of teaching traditional Namibian songs to the participants from China. They were from the Nanjing Little Red Flower Art Troupe, a primary school that has an Arts Program which almost all the kids partake in. Other participants were from the Nanjing Singing and Dance Theatre Company. We also had participants from Zambia and Congo.
For the first week it was all work and no play. We worked through interpreters because not everyone could speak English. There was a lot of knowledge and information sharing and we had meetings with people from the different bureaus of the town. I learnt five different Chinese folk songs two of which are the same, but from different provinces. Chinese folk music/songs are sung or played in octaves but they are still very melodic. There are no syncopated rhythms like in our music and they use the so-la-fa notation mixed with western music notation, not the traditional staff notation. This was interesting to me as Africans predominantly use the sol-fa notation too.
In the little free time we had, we went sight-seeing and doing other things. I was most impressed by how elders chose to spend their free time doing art related activities, which keeps them fit, such as dancing.
And the food! Ah! I have not eaten so many vegetables like I did in the duration of the time I was in China.
At the end of the program we had to put on a show about what we had learnt. I can sing Damara/Nama any time but singing Chinese songs, eish! However I performed and overall it was a great experience which I might not get again especially from an educator’s point of view. We need more programs like these so that more Namibians are able to experience and learn how art programs are being run and managed sustainably elsewhere. Arts Education must be implemented in our public schools.