Association pour l’anthropologie du changement social et du développement
Association for the anthropology of social change and development

“If even the Chinese grow wings and fly”: Mapping Martial Arts Genealogies in Bagamoyo, Tanzania

Auteur(s) : Sheridan Derek ; Rafiq Mohamed Yunus ;

While the Chinese state has recently mobilized the martial arts for cultural diplomacy in Africa, the practice of the East Asian martial arts in East Africa derives from a multitude of sources: Hong Kong films, postcolonial military exchange programs, itinerant migration, and Islamic spiritual knowledges. These illustrate the longstanding presence of Afro-Asian connections, and the significant role played by African martial artists, complicating assumptions about who has authored “East Asian” cultural signs. In this paper, I examine the case of BAFIMA, a Karate Dojo in Bagamoyo, Tanzania and its founder, Sempai Ally, who views his life as a debt to reveal the “real pasts” of the martial arts through writing books, practicing karate, and making films. Based on collaborative fieldwork and preliminary oral historical research tracing martial arts genealogies to Zanzibar, Korea and the world of viumbe (beings), I trace how a particular set of practices/aesthetics have come together which can neither be considered derivative of East Asia nor glossed simply as “African appropriation,” but are rather mapped within Islamic geographies which defy continental categories. In the process, I consider the work of mapping genealogies, the shifting meaning of “China” and “Chinese teachers” in these genealogies, and the implications for the politics of claims regarding authorship of Afro-Asian cultural heritage.


Mot-clé : Martial Arts; Afro-Asia; Swahili Coast; Islam; Geneologies; Body Cultures
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Voir le panel Les médias chinois en Afrique : circulation, production, réception / African uses of Chinese media

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