Writers, musicians, film directors and people very far from creativity have been looking for their lost paradise among snows of Kilimanjaro or on Zanzibar beaches for many decades. Tanzania seems so exotic and distant for Russians, but probably our nations have much more in common than it seems at a first glance? Today we will learn about cultural bridges between the two continents from Mr. Parmukh Singh Hoogan, a former Member of Tanzanian Parliament.
-Which nations created the culture of modern Tanzania and which languages do they speak?
— The historical way of our country made it multilingual with mixed culture. Over 120 tribes including the Maasai, the Makonde, the Wagogo, the Wanyachusa and the Chaga can be considered as ethnic Tanzanians. The official language is Swahili, but quite a few people speak good English which was brought here by British. In general, according to the state linguistic policy declared in 1984, English should be used in secondary schools, universities, technical field and higher courts. Actually, Swahili was introduced in primary schools by government to bring the diverse population together after formation of the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964. Nevertheless, Tanzanian residents including those originating from India and Great Britain usually speak their mother tongues within their own social circles.
-Many Russians are curious about distant African continent, but probably each country is special in its own way. What would you call cultural symbols of Tanzania?
— It would not be an overstatement to say that our culture is unique as it was formed under African, Arabic, European and Indian influence. One can hear it in sounds of traditional trumpets made from buffalo horns, coconut shell fiddles, whistles called » filimbi» as well as modern rhythms of hip hop and reggae; see in Tingatinga paintings or even taste in cafes popular among natives. Meanwhile, local customs form our cultural identity in some sense. For example, Tanzanians eat only with their right hand and greet each person individually in a big group starting with the oldest one.
-What do your compatriots usually associate with the word «Russia»? Where except Internet can they learn about our culture, history and mentality?
— We consider your country to be our «sister» and believe that Russians and Tanzanians have many common views. I still hope to greet President Vladimir Putin here one day and shake his hand. Not everyone knows that in the 1980s he visited our regional capital Bagamoyo, a former center of ivory and slave trade.
As for discovering Russian culture offline without leaving Tanzania, so the best way to do that is visiting Russian Centre of Science and Culture in Dar es Salaam which has been operating for more than 30 years already. Everyone is welcome here to learn language, prepare for admission to a Russian university, join a creative art class or a club which organizes exhibitions, cinema viewing, lectures and concerts from time to time.
— Did you participate in any cultural events dedicated to Russian culture, probably, before the «COVID-19 era»?
— Yes, recently I attended an exhibition of paintings by Russian artist Lilya from Moscow which was held in Golden Tulip hotel in Zanzibar. The atmosphere was very friendly and the artist gave me one of her remarkable joyful paintings as a present. I guess that such events cannot be replaced by Zoom or Skype as only live people-to-people contact creates strong connections between cultures.
-Would you call tourism a significant contribution to understanding between our states? Where it is better to go to feel the vibes and soul of your country?
— The fact that Tanzania is now open for Russian tourists is a perfect opportunity for our nations to discover each other as we are and make our mutual interest even stronger. I would recommend to start from picturesque Stone Town- a city designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Here one feels that Tanzanian culture was created not only by local tribes, but also by people from Arabic countries, Europe and India. And tourists inspired by documentaries and books about African nature have a great choice too: majestic Kilimanjaro, 16 national wildlife parks, underwater world of Pemba and Mafia islands for scuba divers and snorkelers as well as ancient forests near Morogoro which appeared on the continent around 25 million years ago.
-African students were quite common in Russian universities before the pandemics. How is educational exchange between our countries going at the moment? Are there any plans to develop it further?
— Educational cooperation between the two states has been quite intensive since the Soviet times. Many graduates got key decision-making positions in their homeland: for example, our previous president Ali Mohamed Shein obtained his medical degree in the USSR.
As I told you before, Russian language is taught at the dedicated Centre of Science and Culture in Dar es Salaam where one can learn about opportunities for higher education as well. It worth mentioning that the organization supported presentations by Russian scientists at Tanzanian universities, trips of our scientists to Russia and joint scientific conferences before the pandemics. We are sincerely grateful to the Centre employees as they have sent several hundred Tanzanians to Russian universities during the last 30 years and now the highly educated compatriots contribute a lot to the development of their homeland. Moreover, despite the COVID-19 crisis, your government keeps granting scholarships to Tanzanian young people who would like to study in Russia.
-That sounds optimistic indeed! Finally, it would be very interesting to learn your opinion about the future of cultural dialogue between our states. Do you think there are common goals and values that could make the cooperation really strong? If so, what can be done right now?
— Oscar Wilde asserted that the bond of all companionship is conversation. Our nations started the conversation quite a long time ago. There are many opportunities to continue discovering each other and make our mutual interest even stronger. For example, we organize music and film festivals on a regular basis, and I can assure you that if Russian musicians, movie directors or actors come here to participate, they will get a very warm welcome from local audience. And this is only one idea- we are open to all kinds of cultural cooperation with Russia.
— Mr. Hoogan, let me thank you for sharing so many interesting facts and supporting cooperation between our countries. I hope that despite the challenges of pandemic Russian- Tanzanian friendship will grow stronger from year to year.Источник: personal interview, pictures provided by the respondent