Promotional material for Hunting. (Photo: IC)
George Obara's fascination with Chinese culture dates back three decades ago when he studied computer engineering in the Asian country at a time when it was a rare honor to pursue education in a foreign land.
The middle-aged father of three has nostalgic memories of his six-year study tour in China, where he was exposed to the marvels of an ancient civilization, whose soft power is felt in Kenya and other parts of the African continent.
Obara returned to Kenya in the mid-1990s and immediately realized that something needed to be done to boost understanding between his compatriots and the Chinese people.
"When I came back to Kenya in 1994, I found a cultural gap between Kenyans and the Chinese people," Obara told the Xinhua News Agency during a recent interview.
He participated in the Chinese television drama series, Hunting, which has a setting in Kenya and just finished broadcasting last week, and whose theme revolves around Chinese police officers going overseas, tracking suspects accused of economic crimes.
Obara said it was an honor for him to play a role in the series when it was shot in Nairobi metropolitan region.
"We covered Nairobi extensively mainly because of logistics and light," said Obara.
He said the filming covered coffee farms in central Kenyan county of Kiambu that neighbors Nairobi as well as a police station on the outskirts of the capital, an open air market and a suburban home.
"The drama exposed Chinese actors to what is happening on the ground here in Kenya. It exposed our strong points, it helped Chinese understand our culture and other facets of life," said Obara, who played the role of scouting for sites during the shooting of the drama series.
He said that his company called "Loving Africa" has enabled him to forge robust ties with Chinese filmmakers, adding that the television drama provided a new platform to promote China-Kenya cultural understanding and friendship.
Nearly 30 Kenyan actors played roles during the shooting of the Chinese television drama series from September 27 to October 8 in 2019.
Charles Ageng'o, a videographer involved in shooting of the television series, said that it provided an ample opportunity for local and Chinese actors to bond, share professional expertise and forge lasting friendships.
"We shared our professional experience, interacted and also spent time together during snacks and lunch breaks. On the plus side, we also got to learn some bit of technical know-how from each other," said Ageng'o.
Ageng'o said that the presence of translators eased communication between Kenyan and Chinese crew who participated in the shooting of the drama series that cemented friendship between the two peoples.
The youthful videographer said that the film and TV industry could provide a viable platform to promote cultural diplomacy between Kenya and China while unleashing new revenue streams.
"Kenya and China could benefit from each other through promoting films made by both markets," said Ageng'o.
He said that enhanced cultural cooperation between Kenya and China will spur growth of local film industry through training and sharing of best practices.
Yahya Chavanga, a Nairobi-based veteran filmmaker who was a member of the local cast, said the television series marked a milestone in China-Kenya cultural cooperation.
"The Chinese filmmakers created a platform for interaction between us and the Chinese people," said Chavanga.