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World Expo promotes folk exchanges between China, Africa

2010/06/21´╝îFOCAC Website

As the Congolese marked their National Pavilion Day at the Shanghai World Expo 2010 on Wednesday, seven out of the participating 50 African countries' pavilions have now celebrated their special day at the world fair.

In the Africa Joint Pavilion alone, more than 4.5 million visitors had passed through its doors as of Wednesday, making it the most visited venue at the exposition, and this number remains about one-third of the total number of visitors to the world fair since it opened on May 1, excluding visitors to eight other African countries' pavilions, independent from the Africa Joint Pavilion.

The 3.28-square-kilometer expo park has also built a large stage for both Chinese and African peoples to promote folk exchanges.

Football Thrill FromAfrica

Since the opening of the Shanghai Expo, African pavilions have been more popular among tourists, especially the World Cup host' s pavilion - the South Africa Pavilion.

Outside the South Africa Pavilion, a giant Adidas Jabulani, the official match ball for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, was displayed at the doorway along with South Africa World Cup's mascot - the leopard "Zha Kumi". Many Chinese football fans line up in long queues to wait for the chance of taking pictures with the two symbols of the tournament.

As night falls, football fans gather at the World Cup host's pavilion to watch matches shown on its giant LED screen.

Surnamed Liang, a girl fromWuhan of central China's Hubei Province, said she is a football fan and has followed every match at the World Cup. "Although I can't go to South Africa to watch the tournament, I'm delighted that I can enjoy the atmosphere here (the South Africa Pavilion)," said Liang.

In addition to watching World Cup matches, buying World Cup souvenirs was also popular among Chinese tourists in the expo park. The first shipment of World Cup souvenirs sold out the first day when the tournament opened inJohannesburg, South Africa, on Friday. More souvenirs are being brought into the expo park to meet the tourists' demand.

Touch of Civilization, Culture

Besides exciting sports matches, many visitors were attracted by African ancient and mysterious civilizations.

A great wall at the entrance of the Africa Joint Pavilion has become a tourist attraction, with thousands of visitors taking photos in front of it.

The huge wall, dubbed "African smiles", shows faces of different colors across the world, centered on Lucy, the iconic early human ancestor specimen that walked the Earth 3.2 million years ago and was uncovered in 1974 and nicknamed "Lucy".

At another location, Si Lixin, a retiree fromXishui County in Hubei Province, was carefully looking at crafts from Cameroon, Cote d'ivoire and Togo.

"I'm already in my 60s and am unlikely to visitAfrica. I can feel the sincerity when visiting African pavilions," he said.

"The African art crafts could rarely be seen on TV. They show you the richness of the continent' s cultures," he said.

The World Expo Sino-African friendship ambassador, Lulu from Benin, enjoyed talking with visitors in Chinese.

He told reporter that he had not expected to see such a complete collection of elite African cultures here and was touched by the sincerity of organizers and exhibitors.

Besides art in still forms, live performances by artists also help the African pavilions attract visitors.

Many African countries invited top artists to participate in the World Expo, including Neba Solo, a musician fromMali and Ces Ria Vora, a folk singer from Cape Verde, allowing visitors to have close contact with African cultures, said Chen Jintian, head of the management department of the Africa Joint Pavilion.

Bring "Africa" Home

Besides cultures of African flavor, many visitors hoped to go home with some authentic products made inAfrica.

Africa-made crafts ranked high on Chinese tourists' "must-buy" lists, along with perfume in the France Pavilion and UGG shoes in the Australia Pavilion.

The popular Africa-made crafts included ebony sculptures, colorful earrings and exaggerated necklaces. Those booths selling crafts in the pavilions were often surrounded with crowds of visitors.

Some tourists were even having tattoos fromMauritania painted on their bodies. The tattoos would be painted with dyes made from natural plants that disappear after two weeks.

When having his tattoo painted on himself, Lu Yaobin, a young man fromZhejiang Province, said the expo helped him learn more about the colorful sides of Africa. "I knew too little about Africa before and mostly from TV or photos on the vast grasses, as well as wars and famines."

To help visitors know more about Africa and better tour around the pavilions, the organizers issued two books on Africa cultures - Very Africa and African Stories, introducing highlights of the African pavilions along with African history and traditions.

Elhadi Boumaza, director of the Algeria Pavilion, said he was deeply impressed by visitors' curiosity and eagerness to explore African cultures and hoped they would have a favorable impression about Africa and visit there as tourists.

A total of 189 countries have sponsored pavilions at the six-month Shanghai World Expo, with its theme "Better City, Better Life".

(Source: Xinhua)

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