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Today, these “transnational” Nigerian students are in their own way affirming their identity and difference, in southern China, in particularly in Macau SAR, thanks to their network of multiple interrelations across nation-states from Africa to Asia and to a combination of perseverance, zeal, and gentleness without subservience. The sea is History […] the lantern of a caravel, and that was Genesis.5Derek Walcott, Recent scholarly studies and media coverage have primarily focused on China’s increasing presence and sometimes asymmetricalengagement with Africa in tandem with the new trend of Chinese migration to that continent.
Finally, borrowing the title from a sequel movie with the same title of the promising New African cinema, the paper focus on the “China Wahala”or the troubles of these Nigerian students through their tales of their experiences of racism(s) and their negotiations and responses which radically contradicts not only the slogans of cultural diversity propagated by the official discourse and tourist channels as these Nigerians are confronted daily with often dramatic situations ranging from indifference and ostracism to exclusion. In the particular case of Macau, a long-standing Portuguese settlement, there was a steady presence of Africans dating back to the earliest period of European expansion in the Far East until nowadays.9 Chinese records, travel accounts, and fiction works indicate the presence of African people back to the Tang dynasty (608-907) when Arabs and other Muslims controlled the maritime and slave trades from East Africa to China and to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) when the Chinese sent maritime expeditions to East Africa.10 Throughout the centuries of the Portuguese maritime in Africa and Asia, Black African slaves became one of the commodities in the Portuguese maritime trade with China.
The number of Africans in the South China region increased, thus becoming a constant from the second half of the sixteenth century, namely, coinciding with the arrival of the Portuguese navigators, the latter aiming at a large-scale maritime trade with China.
11 The Chinese, in particular, in the coastal areas, were the first to be exposed to foreigners at times that many African slaves, including women, were brought to Macau.
Despite many studies devoted to the “ethnoburbs” in other latitudes, only very recently, these entrepreneurial African communities in Mainland China are starting to become worthy of serious scholarly attention.
Yet,there is total absence of studies dealing with the presence of more and more African students and the cultural manifestations of African communities well portrayed in the new African cinema, in music produced by Afro-Chinese bands or even singers.2Besides a continuing inward flow of transient Africans who come to China for business on a regular basis, a significant number of settler African traders, particularly Nigerians, have already married local Chinese women, set up families, autonomously run their businesses without recourse to Chinese intermediaries, and established a web of informal and formal committees representing their home nations and states, to solve disputes while maintaining personal and business links with Africa.
Besides, those emigrant ‘bushfallers’ who are coming to China solely for business purposes, a new form of “silent” migration of Nigerians comprising students from different backgrounds is enrolling in higher education institutions in the Macau Special Administrative Region of China.These students are coming to pursue their studies or to seek a job to pay their student fees at the margin of the PRC scholarship and stipendprograms for visiting African students that were popular in China in the 1960s and mid-1970s as part of CCP’s foreign policy for Third World aiming friendly relations with Africa.Recent scholarly studies and media coverage have primarily focused on China’s increasing presence and sometimes asymmetrical engagement with Africa in tandem with the new trend of Chinese migration to that continent.Yet, the inverse flux of Africans to China and the emergence of African communities in Southern China over the last decades is influencing some areas of the Pearl River Delta Region, and changing the fabric of cities like Guangzhou, Macau and Hong Kong, in a way without precedent.There are representations or exotic descriptions from some mass circulation magazines and newspapers on the infamous Chungking Mansions in Hong Kong or the so-called “Chocolate-city,”an area centered around Hongqiao, the village-district and Canaan market in the city of Guangzhou, with its arcades and strip malls filled with ethnic businesses and transnational migrants.In Macau, significant concentrations of African population of different origins are also seen in the “Papa pun” commercial center or in downtown areas.