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Cultural exchange inspires 'creative trance'

By Sun Ye (China Daily)

09:48, April 19, 2013

Cultural exchanges between Chinese and African artists have borne creative fruit.

For two years, Chinese and African artists have been visiting each other's countries as part of a program initiated by the Ministry of Culture.

Li Qiang, a Nanjing-based landscape artist, says South Africa inspired him so much he was in a "creative trance".

The 47-year-old toured the country in December as part of the Sino-Africa exchange program.

"It felt as if I had been transported back into the distant past when I saw the Zulus," he says. "South Africa was like a Xanadu to us," he says, adding the tribes people's feathered outfits and rhythmic dancing immediately inspired him and his fellow Chinese artists.

He witnessed exotic landscapes, animals and "eye-catching" ethnic art forms that made him realize, "There are so many possibilities."

Fired up by what they had seen in the day, they often worked all night, he says.

Taga Nuwagaba, the Ugandan artist and Fulbright scholar known for his watercolor depictions of wildlife, attended the 2012 program with four other African artists at the Nanjing Painting and Calligraphy Academy over the summer.

"Coming to China is the No 1 thing I wanted to do as an artist." He says he applied to go the minute he heard about the program.

The artists explored and painted the city with 1,500 years of history. Nuwagaba completed 12 paintings during his stay, based on what he saw, ranging from prehistoric sites and ancient city walls to contemporary street scenes.

"It was much more than just cultural therapy, it revealed history and was an educational experience," Nuwagaba says, adding the program will be a "springboard to greater achievements. My return to Uganda should see a changed man".

For the 2011 program, five African artists produced more than 100 charcoal drawings and more than 60 oil paintings. Their work was exhibited in Botswana. Compositions by their Chinese counterparts were exhibited in Shenzhen and Nanjing.

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