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New Year fete, Chinese style

By Emmanuel Mwendwa | Feb 1st 2015 | 3 min read

Last Friday, a group Kenyan students learning the Chinese language at the Confucius Institute affiliated to Nairobi University, showcased the various creative skills mastered in their course work.

The institution’s teachers and volunteers had joined the Chinese students’ choir alongside the dragon and lion dance troupes, singing along their songs and swaying in sync with various oriental dance styles against the backdrop of colourful fireworks display.

All this was being done to celebrate the Chinese New Year, with visiting entrepreneurs and investors who have set up their business ventures and partnerships in Kenya invited for the surprise pre-New Year dinner party hosted at the Zen Gardens by the Barclays Bank.

Although the New Year’s event officially kicks off next month on February 19 – performances displayed were reminiscent of the actual celebrations in China. This date is symbolic of the new moon day on the first lunar month.

The curtains will fall on 2014 – which was the year of the horse before ushering in year of the sheep/goat. In Chinese astrology, animal signs are used annually to characterise perceptions reflective of different individual or communal interpretations.

For centuries past, the Chinese zodiac has consistently been represented by 12 animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat/ sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

Green sheep’s year

Traditionally, the festivities surrounding Chinese New Year were referred to as the Nian festival. 2015 is the year of the Green Sheep; green represents the element wood, which comes from trees.

Back in Nairobi, the exclusive cocktail event graced by the managing director Barclays Bank of Kenya, Jeremy Awori, attracted a cross-section of the businesspeople resident in East Africa and China in an open air gathering setting aimed at strengthening Sino-Kenya relations.

Other prominent guests present included Oxford Business Group country director Vaselina Kracheva and the Kenya Association of Manufacturers CEO Betty Maina. They joined other top business honchos who came out to interact, celebrate with Chinese community of investors and of course exchange commercial contacts.

The evening celebrations highlights kicked off with the Feitian dance performance showcased by two Kenya ladies, who were seemingly conversant with the engaging dance moves complemented by use of multi-coloured ribbons.

This dance is hinged upon a five-thousand-year-old established foundation enriched by the vast Chinese cultural heritage.

Feitian is considered to be an ancient and classical Chinese dance related to martial arts that use the body as a performance medium. Typical movements of this classical performing art form have thrived over centuries owing to the individual dancer’s ability to express a variety of feelings.

Mood swings

These range from emotional delight, mood swings of sorrow, anger, grief or joy supposedly often triggered by human feelings of attachment and love. The dance form is however deeply expressive only when inner feelings are flowing in tandem with the body’s movements.

Typical Chinese classical dance moves tap into the human body’s natural abilities – and the skills developed over months of intense training.

The Kenyan Chinese students who benefit from cultural exchange programmes also displayed the thrilling lion dance. It is widely performed among the highlights ushering in the Chinese New Year alongside the equally fashionable dragon dance.

Both dances are also commonplace during other traditional, cultural and religious festivals besides other performances to mark important occasions like business forum events, special celebrations or wedding ceremonies.

Though majority of the guests could not quite relate to the exotic celebrations, they nonetheless indulged in the contagious spirit of merry-making evident during the New Year’s festivities witnessed early this month – almost seven weeks before relatively similar Chinese celebrations commence over several days.

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