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Sierra Leonean Entertainer says she is loved in China

By Joseph S. Margai (People's Daily Online)    18:00, August 27, 2018

Mariatu, a Sierra Leonean entertainer, in one of her performing dresses

A Sierra Leonean entertainer, Mariatu Kargbo, has recently said in an exclusive interview that she is loved by the Chinese people, remarking that China creates an environment for talent to thrive.

Maliya, as she is popularly known by her Chinese fans, said that she came to China in 2004 at the age of just 16.

“I came to take part in the Miss Kite Beauty Pageant held in Shandong. It’s a very big event that is held annually. 100 countries participated and I performed in the first three. I sang a song about Shandong, which I described as a beautiful city and it was appreciated by the Chinese people,” she said.

Maliya recalled that she fell ill shortly after the event, and on her way to see her friends and seek medical advice in Shenzhen, she met a Chinese woman who helped her.

“The Chinese woman, who I consider my adopted mother, took me to the hospital and paid all my medical expenses. Because of that woman’s assistance during those trying moments, I fell in love with the entire Chinese people,” she recalled.

She said in 2007, she participated in “China’s Got Talent” and out of 19,000 participants she was awarded fourth place, noting that afterwards, people started to recognize her.

“I was the first black lady, and I brought 30 black dancers who were setting off fireworks on stage. It was a widely watched television program. Since then, I have become popular among the Chinese,” she said.

Mariatu in her performing dresses

Maliya said she was motivated to stay in China because the Chinese are incredibly hard-working and committed to whatever they do, adding that she was also interested in learning Chinese Kung Fu and Opera, with China being the best place to actualize her dreams.

She was part of a dance troupe in Sierra Leone, remarking that during her school days, she was an athlete as well as a singer in a church choir, and later joined the Sierra Leone Scout Association.

“However, I wanted to realize the full potential of my talents and at that time, China was the only place that could provide that platform for me. I have never regretted staying in China because I have acquired a lot of fame during my stay,” she said.

Quizzed about her best moments in China, she said that the lady who paid her medical expenses always springs to mind.

“Another moment was when I performed with Jackie Chan at the Olympic stadium in 2008,” she remembered.

Maliya, who sings, dances, paints, and also models, said she earns a living from these combined activities in China.

“I also help take Chinese investors to Africa and ensure that their investments are secured. I ensure that we bridge existing gaps in such a way that nobody cries foul,” she noted.

The entertainer proudly stated that she was the first black woman to stage a successful concert in China, adding that although there are many international artists that have had success in China, as a Chinese-based black artist, she was the first to do something special.

“I have made the brand of Africa, especially Sierra Leone, huge in China. If you mention my name in any big city in China, people will think of Africa. I am a black woman that the Chinese have adopted and accepted as their own and I am very proud of that. I thank them for their hospitality,” she stated.

She said that in 2009, at the Miss World competition, she was the first black woman to combine cultures from both Sierra Leone and China, to the delight of onlookers.

Maliya quoted the ex-president of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, who described her as a tree that should always be watered by Sierra Leoneans so as to yield the fruits of her labor.

“The Chinese appreciate my contribution to entertainment. China has never discriminated against me and has provided many things for me that my country hasn’t. The Chinese love Sierra Leone and that is evident in past and ongoing projects that have been established in the West African country,” she said proudly.

She remarked that the days when people thought China was a third-world country are over.

“Most Africans have been brainwashed by western media reports about China but this is the safest place to live on earth. There are no security threats, no wars, no kidnappings, and the people are disciplined. I have travelled to many countries in the world, but I’m happy and safe in China,” she said.

As China and Africa prepare for the upcoming Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), Maliya revealed that she is playing a role in the event that will attract African leaders and other diplomats from around the world.

When asked what she has given back to Sierra Leone, she proudly said that she has been a part of numerous projects in her home country.

“I used my hard-earned cash to facilitate electrical connectivity to Devil Hole, a community in the Western Area Rural District of Sierra Leone. I have established and sustained schools, mosques and houses in Sierra Leone. I have also been supporting physically challenged people in Jui, another Western Area Rural District community,” she noted.

She said she has established one of the biggest mosques in Waterloo which accommodates over 3,000 worshippers, adding that she now also owns schools in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown.

“Prior to the general election in Sierra Leone this year, I donated one million US dollars of powdered milk to malnourished children,” she said.

Maliya also advised entertainers in Sierra Leone to sing what she describes as “real songs”, that can bring positive transformation to the country.

“The reality is that most musicians [in Sierra Leone] have been painting a very bad image of their country with their music, thereby discouraging investors who wish to invest in the country. Produce songs that will bring laurels to Sierra Leone. They should thrive and go on to compete on the international stage,” she said. 

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(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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