By Foday Moriba Conteh
In a momentous gathering, the Confucius Institute of Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone has on Saturday 18th November, 2023 commemorated the 2023 World Confucius Institute Day Cultural Experiencing Series: Sino-Sierra Leone Cultural Exchanges Gala on the theme: “A Bright Future and A Wonderful World”. The event was held at Taiji Garden, Fourah Bay College Campus in Freetown.
Addressing Chinese leaders, staff members from various sectors in Sierra Leone, as well as leaders and lecturers from different Teaching Sites, the Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute, Prof. Chen Xuebin, highlighted the Institute’s mission to cultivate a passion for Chinese language teaching and foster cultural exchange.
Acknowledging the collective effort that led to this celebratory day, Prof. Chen recognized the dedication of learners, the hard work of instructors, and the unwavering support of partners, adding that the Institute has successfully built platforms for cultural exchanges and mutual learning, aiming to bridge the gap and promote understanding and friendship between the People of China and Sierra Leone.
Before the captivating performances of the day, he said participants immersed themselves in diverse aspects of Chinese culture such as calligraphy, paper cutting, tea art and Chinese chess stressing how they are more than pastimes as he maintains how they served as gateways to a world shaped by thousands of years of history and tradition.
He said that the main highlight of the event is geared towards celebrating the talents and dedication of Chinese learners in Sierra Leone who are proficient in the Chinese language adding how these learners have showcased their skills in various forms of arts and culture, including poetry recitation, playing Chinese musical instruments, Taiji, and song, of which he stated that the performances not only demonstrated their mastery of the language but also painted a rich tapestry of Chinese cultural expressions.
However, he said that the festivities went beyond showcasing Chinese culture, as the Confucius Institute believes in the power of cultural exchange, the strength of diversity and spirit of mutual appreciation and understanding furthering that the event also celebrated the culture of Sierra Leone, emphasizing the bonds, friendships and unity forged through the cultural exchange.
As Prof. Chen emphasized the importance of coming together to celebrate not only the languages and cultures that make each community unique but also the connections that bind them, he invited everyone to enjoy the artistic expressions that will grace the stage.
He concluded by stating that the event symbolizes a commitment to cross-cultural understanding and the enduring friendship between China and Sierra Leone, thanking everyone for their support and enthusiasm in making such endeavors possible.
The Head of the Linguistics Department at Fourah Bay College, Dr. Abdulai Walon-Jalloh, commended the Confucius Institute at Fourah Bay College for their impactful work in empowering Sierra Leonean students.
He highlighted the Institute’s role in offering students an opportunity to acquire knowledge in Chinese, enabling them to compete globally.
Dr. Walon-Jalloh emphasized the success of the undergraduate program in Chinese Language and the HSK Program within the Confucius Institute, noting that students are progressing through various levels, with the first set of B.A Honors in Chinese Language soon to graduate.
Expressing gratitude for the Confucius Institute’s efforts, Dr. Walon-Jalloh highlighted the positive impact on student enrolment in the department, particularly for those interested in studying Chinese Language.
He affirmed the Department’s commitment to providing an enabling environment for the Confucius Institute to thrive, acknowledging the ongoing support from the University’s administration.
On his part, the Minister Counsellor of China to Sierra Leone, His Excellency Li Xiaoyong, expressed his delight during the commemoration of the 2023 Confucius Institute Day which he described as a way to showcase the flourishing cultural exchanges between China and Sierra Leone.
His Excellency Li Xiaoyong conveyed heartfelt thanks to the staff of the Confucius Institute at the University of Sierra Leone for their sustained efforts and significant contributions to facilitating language learning and promoting an understanding of Chinese culture in Sierra Leone. He revealed that since the establishment of Confucius Institute Day in 2014, international Chinese language education has thrived and cultural exchanges have become increasingly dynamic.
He disclosed that over the past nine years, many young people in Sierra Leone have embraced the opportunity to learn the Chinese language and explore Chinese culture, stating that the International Chinese Language Day and the International Tea Day saw enthusiastic participation from Sierra Leonean children, showcasing their curiosity and eagerness for knowledge.
He said that during the “Chinese Bridge” competition, Sierra Leonean youth demonstrated their deep understanding of Chinese culture, highlighting the robust people-to-people exchanges between China and Sierra Leone.
His Excellency Li Xiaoyong shared President Xi Jinping’s vision of the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI), emphasizing the respect for the diversity of civilizations, common human values, the importance of inheriting and innovating civilizations and fostering international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation.
He expressed China’s readiness to collaborate with the international community to enhance exchanges, understanding among different people and the integration of diverse cultures.
The Gala featured various sessions infused with Chinese elements, including poetry recitation, acrobatics, Chinese Kung-fu demonstrations, and hands-on experiences such as paper cutting, the Arts of Tea, Chinese Calligraphy, and Chinese Chess. His Excellency Li Xiaoyong expressed optimism that the event’s joyful atmosphere would bring the two people closer together, fostering mutual understanding and strengthening the cultural bonds between China and Sierra Leone.
Closing the commemoration were performances which includes Allegro, Recess Exercise, Sierra Song and Dance Cabaret, Calligraphy Display & Tai Chi, Chinese Kung Fu-Shaolin Soul, Acrobatic, Poetry recitation and Chinese Song etc.