Young artists from Zimbabwe perform an African-style dance (Photos by Guo Xingfu)
A group of young artists from Zimbabwe caused a sensation at Beijing Tianqiao Performing Arts Center on November 8. Performing as part of the 2017 Dreamstar China Tour, the emerging artists from Zimbabwe Dreamstar Arts Troupe showcased their talents through singing, beat boxing, dancing and speed painting, combining modern influences with traditional instruments such as African drums, marimba, kalimba and maracas.
The troupe is composed of the winners of the Dreamstar Competition, an annual large-scale public welfare talent show organized by the Chinese community in Zimbabwe with the support of the Chinese Embassy there. This time, 33 artists perform in a series of concerts across China, taking one more step toward realizing their dreams of stardom. Since its creation in 2014, the event has been successfully held four times, each time with a warm response from the public.
"The competition is very popular with locals and has become a local brand event where young people gain confidence and motivation because they can finally demonstrate their talents on stage," Zhao Ke, head of the troupe, told ChinAfrica. Zhao is also executive vice president of Zimbabwe Federation of Overseas Chinese.
Unlike other talent shows in Zimbabwe, winners of Dreamstar Competition can benefit from a number of follow-up activities, including a performing tour in China as well as scholarships from Chinese enterprises based in Zimbabwe to further their studies. According to Zhao, the organizers plan to invite more Chinese enterprises to support the competition in 2018, enabling even more young people to study in China.
Dreamstar has also become a channel for preserving and spreading Zimbabwe’s unique arts and culture. "There are many intangible cultural heritages [in Zimbabwe], such as the kalimba showcased in the show," said Zhao. "This instrument is found only in Zimbabwe, and its music is particularly melodious. Unfortunately, it is less and less popular with the locals. Therefore, in recent years, we have also deliberately encouraged children to learn this instrument."
Zimbabwean and Chinese youth performing on the same stage (Photos by Guo Xingfu)
For many of these young people, this chance to shine on stage is a step closer to achieving their dreams. Cleopatra Arigondia, 21, has been singing R&B music for five years. Although she comes from a poor family, she never give up her passion for singing. As part of the tour, she performs the song You Raise Me Up, a touching and powerful R&B song that resonates with the audience.
"From a very tender age, I have always seen myself on stage. And I feel my dream is playing out very well so far and I am getting there one step at a time," she told ChinAfrica. "I feel this is the beginning of my dream."
Tafara Dondo, 19, a beat-boxer from Zimbabwe’s capital city Harare, is the winner of the 2016 Dreamstar Competition. This is Dondo’s second trip to China, after the first tour in 2015, which made a lasting impression on him.
"It was mind-blowing. China is ahead of most other big countries, so when I looked at the place, how they operate, how efficient they are, it was pretty amazing," he said.
Will the young man draw inspiration from his experience here to write a song about China in the future? "I definitely would! I think it would be a song about admiration and about how much I enjoyed my experience here. I think I will have a lot to write about!" he said.
"Dreamstar is a very good bridge for non-governmental exchanges between China and Zimbabwe. We set up this platform to help young people to realize their dreams and broaden their career paths," said Huang Ping, Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe who attended the show. "At the same time, we are also nurturing ambassadors of Sino-Zimbabwean friendship and advancing friendship between our two peoples, so that our friendship will last forever."