Feature: Nobel laureate encourages more Chinese to "go to Africa"

By Li Hualing, Jin Zheng (Xinhua) 11:19, August 19, 2023

Mo Yan (1st R) interacts with performers at the Nairobi Station of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Nairobi, Kenya, Aug. 13, 2023. (Xinhua/Wang Guansen)

NAIROBI, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- "There's a movie called Out of Africa, but I think we should get closer and know about Africa and its people," Mo Yan, a Chinese of Nobel Prize winner in literature, told Xinhua after his recent tour in Kenya, and he encouraged more Chinese to visit Africa and get a better understanding of the continent.

After a ride on the 480-km Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway, which snakes through picturesque savanna grasslands, Mo Yan said that those engaged in culture should go to Africa, experience a culture completely different from the Chinese culture.

"Those who love nature and wildlife should also go to Africa because there is an infinite expanse here. We should also do some sightseeing here, it will make us contemplate our life," said Mo Yan.

Renowned for his imaginative and humanistic fiction, Mo Yan was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature. He is the first Chinese national to win the Nobel literature award.

Mo Yan, who was born in 1955 and grew up in the Gaomi County of east China's Shandong Province, spoke highly of his first visit to Kenya and called on more Chinese to "go to Africa" to get a better understanding of the continent and contribute to bilateral friendship and cooperation.

Mo Yan arrived in Kenya on July 28 and visited some famous tourist attractions such as the Maasai Mara National Reserve, which is located in southwestern Kenyan plains and well known for the migration of wildebeests from Tanzania's Serengeti National Park to the Maasai Mara during the July-August peak season.

He said that while on the train, he saw elephants, giraffes, zebras, and antelope swarm through the Nairobi National Park as the Chinese-built train linking Kenya's capital city of Nairobi to the coastal city of Mombasa traverses through the ecological treasures along the 480-km Mombasa-Nairobi corridor.

"What I used to see on TV, now I see it in front of me. It's amazing. The African continent is so fascinating," said Mo Yan.

He also visited major infrastructure projects constructed by Chinese companies, including the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway, saying that railway, which is expected to have a total freight volume of 23 million tons and a passenger volume of 13 million by the end of 2023, is a modern one built with Chinese standards, technologies and equipment.

He admitted that all these tours have given him a lot of inspiration, saying "This time, we have come to Kenya to see the Rift Valley of East Africa, to see the vast national reserve, and to see the achievements of China-Kenya cooperation projects."

Wang Zhen, the president of Beijing Shutong Culture and Art Research Association, who accompanied Mo Yan during the over two weeks trip, also said that Africa is quite different from what one thought before coming. "Once you set foot on this land, it completely changed your impression."

Mo Yan said that China and Kenya, separated by thousands of miles, with completely different cultures, can still maintain an unbreakable bond. The connectivity between the two countries lies not only in infrastructure but also in people-to-people exchanges.

He said that after returning to China, he will continue publishing stories on what he saw and heard during his trip to Kenya so that more Chinese readers can understand Kenya, Africa, and China-Africa cooperation.

He hoped that more Chinese writers will visit Kenya and the African continent to have face-to-face exchanges with local writers.

When asked which one of his books he would recommend to readers in Kenya, he said it would be "Red Sorghum," a Chinese-language novel. He explained that the literary work has similarities to the setting of Kenya's famous writer, Ngugi wa Thiong'o's historical novel "A Grain of Wheat," which readers might find relatable.

"Loneliness and hunger were my fortunes of creation," Mo Yan once said. He believed that every writer, no matter how influential they are, shares a similar course of growth, starting as a reader and literary enthusiast.

The Nobel laureate also believed there is great potential for China-Africa cooperation in the field of literature.

"Africa is a fascinating land. China and the African continent have great prospects and infinite hopes," Mo Yan said, adding that his trip to Kenya was just the beginning of a brighter future ahead for China-Kenya cooperation.

Mo Yan speaks during an interview with Xinhua at the Nairobi Station of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Nairobi, Kenya, Aug. 13, 2023. (Xinhua/Wang Guansen)

Mo Yan (C) interacts with performers at the Nairobi Station of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Nairobi, Kenya, Aug. 13, 2023. (Xinhua/Wang Guansen)

(Web editor: Cai Hairuo, Liang Jun)


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