Cultural bridges flourish at the Henan Overseas Gala
Ethiopia and China, two nations with deep-rooted historical ties, came together in a dazzling display of cultural unity at the Henan Spring Gala held in Addis Ababa. The event, which took place at the prestigious National Theatre, served as a vibrant celebration of the mutual appreciation for their rich cultural heritage.
A captivating scene unfolded on the stage of the Ethiopian National Theatre on January 23, 2024, basking in the ethereal glow of the moon. Bathed in auspicious red hues that embody the spirit of China, an enchanting narrative of unity took center stage.
The Ethiopian National Theatre became a vibrant canvas, hosting the Henan (China) Spring Festival Overseas Gala, Africa Tour, under the theme “Though We are Thousands of Miles Apart, Our Hearts Draw Near. With Each Year Passed, Our Love Grows Dear.”
As the venue brimmed with energy, a diverse crowd of Chinese and Ethiopian people, along with honored guests and media representatives, eagerly gathered to witness the Gala. It became a vibrant celebration of cultural exchange, where traditions intersected and stories intertwined, fostering unity and a deep appreciation for the rich heritage of both nations.
The event was attended by notable representatives from the Chinese Republic, including Shen Qinmin (Amb.), deputy chief of China in Ethiopia, Hou Wei, director of the Department of Overseas Chinese Department of Henan Province, and Manyazewal Endeshaw, director of the Ethiopian National Theatre.
The atmosphere underwent a mesmerizing transformation as electrifying music and a captivating Kung Fu performance, the Shaolin Imitation Fist show, took the spotlight. Baldheaded boys, donned in traditional white attire, stole the audience’s gaze as they gracefully moved with the agility of dragons, the speed of monkeys, and the elegance of soaring birds.
The performance reached new heights with the inclusion of the renowned Sichuan Opera Face-Changing show, an intangible cultural heritage of China. A skillful performer left spectators on the edge of their seats, swiftly changing masks, leaving the audience in awe and wonder.
To further enrich the show, a vibrant display of Ethiopian culture also unfolded on the stage. Meticulously dressed in traditional “Habesha attire”, five Ethiopian women showcased a remarkable cultural dance. They were joined by five fellow countrymen, wearing shorts paired with traditional white clothing, as they danced to the rhythmic beats of Tewodros Kassahun’s (Teddy-Afro) “Gonder… Gonder” song.
The stage came alive with vibrant colors, infectious rhythms, and an exuberant energy that emanated from Ethiopian culture. Each step and gesture narrated the beauty and depth of Ethiopian traditions, captivating the hearts of all in attendance.
Organized by the Henan Province Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with the China Embassy in Ethiopia, the program aimed to showcase the talent and expertise of young boys and girls who received training in China to become professional actors. Hailing from Henan Province, these individuals sought to share their experiences and skills with Ethiopian youth, highlighting the artistic and cultural value of their province to admirers.
Temesegen Assefa, coordinator and representative of the Chamber, expressed the intention to involve both China-born Ethiopians and Ethiopian cultural dance performers in the program.
This inclusive approach aimed to convey a powerful message to the world about the shared rituals and cultural unity between these two sister countries.
“The program spanned over four days, emphasizing cultural exchange and collaboration while enhancing mutual understanding between our peoples,” Temesegen told The Reporter
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1970, Ethiopia and China have nurtured a strong partnership, marked by the opening of embassies in both countries, paving the way for fruitful collaborations and cultural exchanges between the two nations.
During the Gala, the focus was on the cultural similarities shared by the Chinese and Ethiopian people. Both nations hold their respective histories, philosophies, and religious practices in high esteem, forming a strong foundation for their cultural unity.
The Deputy Ambassador of the Chinese Embassy in Ethiopia, in his address to the enthusiastic audience, expressed sincere gratitude for their presence at the National Theatre. He commended the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of Henan Province for showcasing traditional Chinese art in celebration of the Year of the Dragon.
Drawing intriguing parallels between Henan’s cultural significance and Ethiopia’s renowned ‘Abay River,’ the Deputy Ambassador shed light on the ‘Yellow River’ in Henan Province. He highlighted its name’s association with Chinese civilization, underscoring its status as a powerful symbol of China’s rich cultural heritage and national identity.
“Henan holds the primary origins of Chinese civilization,” he stated. “With our shared heritage of ancient civilizations, I am confident that the artists from Henan will authentically portray the traditional essence of Chinese culture.”
The gala also provided an opportunity to celebrate President Xi Jinping’s Global Civilization Initiative, which emphasizes people-to-people exchanges and cooperation to foster mutual understanding and friendship among nations. This initiative aligns with the aspirations of both Ethiopia and China to preserve and pass on their cultural and artistic traditions while embracing innovation and development.
The Director of the National Theatre, speaking on behalf of the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Sport, expressed gratitude for the Henan Province’s festival gala. He highlighted the pride Ethiopians take in their rich history, art, and culture, emphasizing the shared heritage of ancient civilizations between Ethiopia and China.
Manyazewal explained that in the present era, both nations attach significant value to preserving and passing on their cultural and artistic traditions while fostering innovation and development in these domains.
“The year 2023 has witnessed a significant increase in cultural exchanges and closer collaboration in the cultural sector between Ethiopia and China, further strengthening the friendship between the two nations,” he said, highlighting the growing role of culture and art in fostering this deepening relationship.
Notably, Ethiopia’s recent inclusion in the BRICS family and its new status as a permanent partner, effective from January 1, 2024, has reinforced the strong bilateral relations between the two countries, with the Chinese government extending substantial support, says Manyazewal.
He emphasized that the ongoing event serves as a tangible realization of President Xi Jinping’s vision for promoting cultural initiatives.
This year, as the two nations celebrate the 53rd anniversary of their diplomatic relations, the event aims to enhance bilateral ties even further.
During the Year of the Dragon celebration, it became evident that the joint performance of artists from both nations on a shared platform exemplifies a remarkable implementation of the Global Civilization Initiative.
“This collaborative endeavor will facilitate exchanges and mutual learning between our two ancient civilizations and peoples, further strengthening the bonds of cultural understanding and appreciation,” Ambassador Shen remarked, underscoring the significance of such initiatives.
In Chinese culture, each Chinese New Year is represented by a distinct animal from the zodiac, and the Year of the Dragon holds immense importance. Symbolizing strength and auspiciousness, this period is marked by vibrant dragon dances, traditional performances, firework displays, and decorative motifs featuring dragons.
In 2024, the element associated with the dragon is wood, representing imagination and adaptability. This combination embodies the qualities of honor, power, and growth that are synonymous with the majestic dragon, adding a profound layer of meaning to the festivities.
As the curtain fell on the Henan Province’s Gala, it became clear that the cultural bond between Ethiopia and China continues to thrive.