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Kenyans head over heels after trip to China

By XIE SONGXIN and OTIATO OPALI in Nairobi, Kenya | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-11-28 08:36

Acrobats perform in the Haunted Circus show at the Sarakasi Dome arena in Nairobi, Kenya on Oct 30. The shows have attracted global attention, and the performers have been invited to appear in Europe and across Africa. XIE SONGXIN/CHINA DAILY

Mathias Kavita little knew 40 years ago that a journey to China would dramatically transform his life.

The then 13-year-old boy from Mombasa, Kenya, knew nothing about acrobatics until he and 23 other teenagers watched a film at the Chinese embassy in Nairobi, the African nation's capital. Kavita, a budding gymnast, had just won a national competition.

"Before traveling to China, we underwent orientation, which included watching films of acrobats recorded in China," Kavita said at his office in Nairobi, which is strewed with equipment for acrobats, some of it imported from China.

Pictures of his past performances hang from the walls, and the office is also home to newspaper cuttings and posters of his past and upcoming shows.

The office is located in the Sarakasi Dome arena, which was built a decade before Kenya attained independence in 1963.

Kavita, who now works with the Sarakasi Trust to tap young acrobatic talent, said: "As a gymnast back then, the films of acrobatics we watched at the Chinese embassy was the first time I had seen such performances. I was particularly impressed by Chinese children performing moves I had never experienced before.

"This made me even more determined to travel to China and learn more."

Kavita has since become a top trainer in Kenya, having instructed more than 1,000 acrobats to perform in shows across the world.

"My training in China was instrumental, because it made me an international performer and a good teacher of acrobatics," he said.

In 1983, Kavita heard that the Chinese embassy in conjunction with the Kenyan government was looking for children to send for acrobatics training in China. Those selected would subsequently return to Kenya to work with the government in taking part in shows nationwide to make acrobatics popular among Kenyans.

Kavita had never traveled outside Kenya. After attending several auditions with some 200 students from other schools, he was among the 24 shortlisted to go to China. This was the first step in what turned out to be his long journey in acrobatics.

He has transformed acrobatics in Kenya by introducing the dynamic moves he learned in China 40 years ago into local routines.

As Kenya and China mark 60 years of diplomatic relations next month, few Kenyans can match Kavita's remarkable story of deep-seated friendship and mutual exchanges between the two countries.

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