ART YAK with CHANDA MWENYA
I BELIEVE that you have seen a cultural ensemble performing at the international airport as part of the programme to welcome either a visiting head of state or some high profile foreign delegate.
It is also a common feature for cultural performers to entertain these distinguished delegates during their other official programmes including state banquets.
Whatever the case, welcoming foreign visitors with a stunt of traditional performances gives the visitor an insight into the country’s cultural panorama. The act should therefore not be perceived as just another mere form of entertainment because it is an essential element of cultural diplomacy.
Yes, cultural diplomacy thrives on the exchange of arts and aesthetic ideas.
Research has continued to indicate that this form of diplomacy reveals the social profile of a nation and provides platforms for possibilities in economic cooperation and development.
There is no better way to understand a people than to know about their culture.
Cultural diplomacy seeks to enhance the elements of culture that makes foreigners to have a deeper understanding of the country’s people and culture.
Perhaps, other than France through the Alliance Francaise, China is a classic example of a country that is aggressively promoting its culture in Zambia.
With the establishment of the Chinese Confucius Institute at the University of Zambia (UNZA) in Lusaka, the Chinese language and culture is gradually filtering into the Zambian community.
Chinese director of Confucius Institute at UNZA Li Qingjun says the establishment is a platform to help disseminate Chinese culture and enhance friendship.
Li says language is a bridge into any culture adding that China has potential to make lasting and positive business diversity in Zambia.
“Learning a language is a mutual engagement; many Zambians are coming to the institute to learn Chinese. I have also been learning some Nyanja from my driver. For instance, I can say Muli bwanji,” she points out.
Li says there is a growing need by Zambians to learn the Chinese language which she says is now one of the world’s major languages.
Meanwhile, the Zambian government is shifting from promoting political diplomacy to economic diplomacy in order to diversify its economy. In that regard, it will equally be important for government to consider promoting cultural diplomacy.
There are a number of papers reflecting on culture and its relationship to economic growth. It is widely acknowledged that cultural diplomacy creates bridges and platforms where economic development can flourish.
Maybe through cultural diplomacy, Zambia can learn from nations like Singapore and Malaysia to steer itself to the shores of economic success.