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View From Shanghai – The African presence

NATANGA SMITH, [email protected]

View From Shanghai – The African presence

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I had just polished off the North African mutton wrap that I had for lunch at Hakuna Matata, the African themed restaurant next to the Africa Pavilion. Leaving, I saw this young Chinese girl in a dashiki.
For me, it epitomised the kind of cultural exchange which this Shanghai World Expo has enabled. 
The African presence at the Expo is quite strong. Participants and performers, merchants and managers, they wear their distinctive garments in all the variety there is in the Expo Village and in the Expo Park. There is a joint Africa Pavilion for several countries from the continent, while some countries like Algeria and Nigeria have their own. 
I asked the dashikied Chinese girl’s permission to take her photograph. Permission was granted, and I took my shot. That’s when I heard the call of the drums. Some primordial instinct deep within me just had to answer. I could not resist. 
I was led by the insistent rhythm to Africa Square, where the Victory Horn dance troupe from Guinea was mesmerising an audibly enthusiastic audience. 
I managed to find a vacant seat and soon joined the audience in the whooping and hollering. The high energy and excitement generated by the drummers and dancers on stage were simply infectious. 
The lead male dancer was more mature than the other members of the group. Watching him execute his moves apparently as effortlessly as his younger dancers, I thought somehow of Rex Nettleford. 
I was only privileged to see him perform with the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica towards the end of his dance career. Perhaps Rex was looking on in approval from above at the goings-on in Africa Square.
All too soon, the dance performance ended, and I headed back to work with Rex and Africa on my mind.
• Sharon Marshall is information officer at the Caribbean Development Bank.