Learning about African Arts and Cultures in Hong Kong
Sealing Cheng and Lai Wo
The course African Arts and Cultures (offered by the Department of Anthropology and Department of Journalism and Communications at CUHK, African Studies Program at HKU) combines academic learning, arts and music workshops, and community outreach to educate students about intercultural communication and active cross-ethnic and community engagement. It was the first ever undergraduate course offered by both the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong.
In light of expanding China-African relations, and the increasing presence of people of African heritage in Hong Kong, the course is a pioneering effort to promote community knowledge of the creative and artistic heritage of Africans in Hong Kong, as well as the cultural textures and social diversity of African societies, and what Hong Kong may gain from a more inclusive understanding of diverse cultures.
The course has 3 main parts: 1) An interdisciplinary introductory course on African arts and cultures taught by a team of academics from different universities (CUHK, HKU, Lingnan U); 2) Workshops on African drums and dance; 3) Outreach and Performance.
All students have to participate in all three parts, and engage with African instructors of drum and dance to teach secondary school students in Yuen Long, and to participate in public performances (at the World Cultures Festival Carnival at the Cultural Center, Free Space at West Kowloon, and the finale Africa in Hong Kong Carnival In Yuen Long). They also have to conduct independent research on a topic of their choice: religions, masks, food, graffiti etc - knowledge of which they had to translate into an exhibition banner at the Africa in Hong Kong Carnival. They also needed to run the stall in an interactive way such that the public could learn through participation.
Students in particular appreciate the interactive dimension and the cross-ethnic collaboration involved in the course. Evaluations of the creative approach of the course raised questions about how university education could go beyond the lecture theatre into the theatre of the community.