Lion dance performers from the Huaxing Arts Troupe interact with children at the Disbury College in Lagos, Nigeria, March 14, 2019. For more than three months, the Huaxing Arts Troupe, mainly composed of young Nigerian performers, has been going around some local primary and secondary schools in Lagos, promoting the Chinese and Nigerian cultures through music and dance. (Xinhua/Lyu Shuai)
Lion dance performers from the Huaxing Arts Troupe interact with children at the Disbury College in Lagos, Nigeria, March 14, 2019. For more than three months, the Huaxing Arts Troupe, mainly composed of young Nigerian performers, has been going around some local primary and secondary schools in Lagos, promoting the Chinese and Nigerian cultures through music and dance. (Xinhua/Lyu Shuai)

More than 100 young Nigerians recently gathered at a secondary school in the city of Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub, for a top-notch cultural exchange program.

For the young Nigerians, it was a rare experience. They sat excitedly, watching various Chinese traditional dances performed by the Huaxing Arts Troupe based in the West African country.

For more than three months, the troupe, mainly composed of young Nigerian performers, has been going around some local primary and secondary schools in Lagos, promoting the Chinese and Nigerian cultures through music and dance.

“Culture is the unique way of life of a group of people. Sharing and exchanging the cultural traits of the two continents — Asia and Africa — and strengthening the cooperation between China and Nigeria is our sole aim,” said Ni Mengxiao, the Chinese founder and leader of the troupe.

The arts troupe was initially set up 11 years ago for the Chinese community in Nigeria, but the entertainment group later decided to begin a tour of local schools to open up the Chinese culture to young Nigerians, as well as scout for young talents who can promote the Nigerian culture now and in the future, said Ni, who has been living and working in Nigeria for 16 years now.

About seven schools have been covered so far in the initiative tagged “Walking Into Schools” since December last year.

Well over 2,000 schoolchildren have participated in the program aimed at deepening the cultural ties between China and Nigeria.

At the Fountain Heights College, Lagos, where the program was last staged, students were held spellbound for several hours by the troupe’s performance.

From the traditional Chinese Lion Dance to the Waist Drum Dance, Kung Fu to Flower Dance, and other dances, the troupe’s performance was not just entertaining but also highly educative, said Adebimpe Delano, the principal of Fountain Heights College.

“We are particularly happy because we teach Mandarin. We have a teacher who comes from the Confucius Institute here in Lagos,” Delano enthused.

Excited students and their teachers expressed further interest in watching and learning more about Chinese arts and culture.

The students also performed the traditional Yoruba ‘bata’ dance, one of the most energetic dances in Nigeria, among other performances.

From the participants’ view, the lion dance, usually performed during the Chinese New Year and other Chinese traditional, cultural and religious festivals, has become the most popular among young Nigerians.

At the end of each show staged by the Huaxing Arts Troupe, young Nigerians usually learn and perform the lion dance on the spot.

Moyo Balogun, one of such young Nigerians, told Xinhua mimicking a lion’s movements in a lion costume, to bring good luck and fortune, was the best moment of his life so far.

“I felt bold like a lion. I felt like being a real lion carrying the head,” said the Grade Five pupil.

“The head was not that heavy. It was a little light and my team mate was also a fast runner. I felt very brave and confident.”

Faith Chukwunene, a school supervisor, believes the initiative will grow in leaps and bounds, particularly as it enlightens young Nigerians in the similarities in the cultures of China and Nigeria.

Chukwunene described it as “one of the best that I have seen so far… China and Nigeria’s culture coming together”.

“The children enjoyed themselves and we learned a lot. The children, from this program, have understood that we are one, whether Chinese or Nigerian, we will always have one or two things to share among ourselves,” she said, adding: “It will go a long way in the minds of these children.”

The “Walking Into Schools” initiative has created many opportunities for young Nigerians, according to Amaechi Okonkwo, a creative director and administrative assistant at the Huaxing Arts Troupe.

Okonkwo said the initiative, though very challenging at the very beginning, was also about creating awareness and carrying young ones along in the promotion of China-Nigeria cultural ties.

“It is one of the core objectives of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, which is an innovative and beautiful one, aimed at connecting people across the globe. Culture is one of the important means of bringing people together,” Okonkwo told Xinhua.

The “Walking Into Schools” project, though started in Lagos, has been taken to three other states in the most populous African country.

“The Huaxing Arts Troupe is going wide by the day. A lot of the schools are already asking us to come to their schools,” he said.

“I think they are loving it and it is really helping the young ones because they want to know more about the Chinese culture and the Chinese also want to know more about Nigerian culture,” he added. Enditem

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