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Learning acrobatics from as far away as Sudan

By Li Yida (People's Daily Online)    09:27, December 27, 2017

Before I was stationed in Sudan, my father remembered watching Sudanese kids practice gymnastics. I couldn’t quite believe it. After I arrived, and met Mudawi, the head of the Sudan.

Acrobatic Troupe at a theater. He welcomed me by speaking Mandarin. I said I was from Hubei Province, he seemed very happy and said, “We are fellow-villagers and Wuhan is my second hometown!”

In 1971, a Chinese teacher came to Sudan to teach 50 children how to perform Chinese acrobatics, magic tricks, and folk music in accordance with a cultural exchange agreement between China and Sudan. The eight-year-old Mudawi was one of those students. “I was quite young at that time. When I saw the teacher climb a pole, I got scared and started to cry. It was too high. I felt it was too difficult for me to learn.”

“But the Chinese teachers treated us very well. They patiently taught us the basic skills. We called them ‘mom’ and ‘dad.’ Wuhan is cold during the winter, so the troupe installed a heater in the dormitory where we lived. When it was hot in summer, we would go to Mount Lu and practice. Mudawi smiled and said, “The only thing we were not used to the food. Sudanese are accustomed to eating bannock, but now that we were in China, we had to eat rice. But we felt that because we had to eat rice, we would become better acrobats. Even today I still enjoy rice.”

In 1974 Mudawi and his classmates graduated and went back to Sudan. The country’s Culture Department established the first acrobat troupe in Arab and African history using Mudawi’s group as their main influence.

The actor Mehdi, from the acrobat troupe said, “An Arabic idiom says, ‘Seek knowledge, even if it is as far away as China.’ For them, it was learning how to be an acrobat, and at a place far away from Sudan.” Not long ago, Mudawi and Mehdi were invited to revisit Wuhan and their respected teachers. Mehdi said, “When we went back to our first training room and saw the Chinese parents, we were so excited and started crying. Now, the sixth passel of Sudanese acrobats have graduated and returned. Djamel’s daughter, Zainab Bint Jahsh, is among them.

In Sudan, while listening to the musicians perform the folk song “Spring of Love,” I was moved as my father in 40 years ago.

(Compiled by Ninuo Zhang) 

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