By Jiang Xuan, Huang Peizhao, Yan Yunming
China’s Shenzhou-16 manned spaceship was successfully launched on May 30. Ten paintings by teenagers from 10 African countries were carried to space with the three taikonauts.
The ten paintings were awarded entries in the “My Dream” Painting Competition for African Youth, which was co-hosted by the secretariat of the Chinese Follow-up Committee of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the China Manned Space Engineering Office and some Chinese embassies and consulates in African countries. The competition received drawings from 2,000 African youths.
The ten entries won the Tianhe Award, named after the core module of China’s space station, and flew into space with the Shenzhou-16 crew. They will be exhibited in the space station.
“I’m just a normal youth from rural Nigeria. I never thought my drawing could be taken to space by a Chinese spaceship and exhibited to the world. It’s wonderful,” said 20-year-old Nigerian Prosper Sania Dania.
The competition theme was mankind’s dream of exploring the vast universe. In Dania’s painting, a round pattern of the national flags of Nigeria and China is displayed, symbolizing the friendship and solidarity between the two countries.
“Mankind has always aspired to explore the universe, and young Africans are no exception. China has made tremendous achievements in aerospace. The pioneering spirit of Chinese taikonauts is encouraging African adolescents to chase their space dream,” Dania said, explaining the idea and inspiration of his work.
He told People’s Daily that he was deeply touched by the remarks by Chinese taikonaut Jing Haipeng that the space exhibition will sow the seeds of science, friendship, and dreams on the China Space Station.
Jing’s story of chasing dreams in space also made the young African realize that it’s essential for young people to have a plan and work for it, Dania said.
“I know that many cooperation platforms built by China have supported young Africans to show their creativity, though I’ve never been to the country. China and Nigeria, as well as other African countries, share development opportunities for progress and prosperity. I hope to join a postgraduate program in China to realize my dream,” the young man noted.
Rawda Ahmed Ali Al Shawadfy, 18, is a freshman studying Chinese at the Suez Canal University in Egypt. After a few months of study, she could introduce her award-winning entry titled “China is Africa’s Hope towards Space” in Chinese.
“The handshake between the Chinese and African taikonauts on the moon symbolizes the close cooperation between China and Africa. The five conspicuous stars on Earth behind them represent China’s leading position in aerospace,” she explained.
She said China had made admirable achievements in science and technology, hoping that African countries and China can launch more cooperation on aerospace and make progress together.
Shawadfy told People’s Daily that the first-ever exhibition on China’s space station would give these paintings a new connotation of Africa-China friendship and bring mankind’s dream to space.
“The exhibition helps promote international exchanges and cooperation, strengthening mutual understanding among people from different countries. It also encourages more young people like me to pursue dreams,” she said.
Shawadfy has been interested in traditional Chinese culture since she was a child. She chose to major in Chinese at university to understand China more profoundly.
“I hope to visit China one day to visit the majestic Great Wall and see the lovely pandas. I also want to pursue further studies there and then be a Chinese teacher or translator to contribute to Africa-China friendly cooperation,” she added.
Hope Mafiko, an 18-year-old from Zimbabwe, is another winner of the Tianhe Award. After learning that his work was going to space, he immediately shared the excitement and joy with his family and friends.
In Mafiko’s painting, which is abundantly covered by green and dotted with yellow and red, two African women look up to the sky, expressing mankind’s aspiration for the universe.
“Green, yellow, and red are colors that typically represent Africa,” Mafiko said, adding that he hopes the painting can mirror Africans’ passion for exploring the vast universe.
Chinese taikonauts’ greetings touched the young man to African adolescents. “It was very heartwarming to hear such kind words. Many young people are being inspired by moments like these and hopefully become a generation of visionaries,” he said.