Prof. K. Opoku-Agyemang’s Speech

CHAIRMAN’S REMARKS

CONFUCIUS INSTITUTE DAY 2016

 

PROF. K. OPOKU-AGYEMANG

GHANA DIRECTOR, CONFUCIUS INSTITUTE AT UCC

SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

 

It is reported that on September 23, 2016, the 3rd Confucius Institute Headquarters Open Day was held in Beijing on the theme of Cultural Diversity on the Silk Road. The Confucius Institute Multilingual Magazines Newsletter Number 09 reported that more than 300 people attended the event, including envoys to China from 44 nations, delegates from cultural organizations, the state-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, the General Administration of Sport of China, Beijing Municipal Education Commission, the Party Committee and government of Xicheng District in Beijing, over 40 Chinese partner universities of Confucius Institutes, enterprises that support the development of Confucius Institutes, as well as Confucius Institute scholarship students in China who came from over 60 countries.

 

The first key term of the theme can be simply posed as a question: what is the Silk Road? It is commonly observed, for example in Wikipedia, that the Silk Road or Silk Route was an ancient network of trade routes that for centuries were central to cultural interaction through various regions of the Asian continent connecting the East and West from China to the Mediterranean Sea.

While the term is a modern coinage, the Silk Road derives its name from the lucrative trade in Chinese silk carried out along its length, beginning in theHan dynasty (207 BCE 220 CE). The Han dynasty expanded Central Asiansections of the trade routes around 114 BCE, largely through missions and explorations of the Chinese imperial envoy, Zhang Qian. The Chinese took great interest in the safety of their trade products and extended the Great Wall of China to ensure the protection of the trade route.

Trade on the Silk Road played a significant role in the development of the civilizations of China, the Indian subcontinentPersiaEurope, the Horn of Africaand Arabia, opening long-distance political and economic relations between the civilizations.[Though silk was certainly the major trade item exported from China, many other goods were traded, and religions, syncreticphilosophies, and various technologies, as well as diseases, also spread along the Silk Routes. In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road was a route for cultural trade among the civilizations along its network.

The Silk Road can today be seen as a metaphor for globalization,

The main traders during antiquity included the Chinese, ArabsTurksIndians,PersiansSomalisGreeksSyriansRomansGeorgians,

Armenians,Bactrians, and many others.

 

The other key term is cultural diversity, and to tackle it I wish to pose the question: What does it mean to open a Confucius Institute here at University of Cape Coast? What do we stand to gain?

 

In our common pronouncements about the Confucius Institute at UCC, we generally tend to repeat the mantra about the transmitting and spreading of Chinese language and culture in Cape Coast, Ghana and elsewhere. But, to my mind, this view presents an unfortunate truncation. As the old scholars tell us, the proper acquisition and formal study of a new language is never a passive apprehension, but a full-bodied structural, cultural and linguistic dialogue between tongues that were initially foreign to each other. The process is self-reflexive: it transforms the very structures with which we think. The proposition is that it is linguistically impossible not to gain fresh insights and understanding into the layered existence of our own language when we acquire a new one. There is a paradox at play here: the deep lingual and cultural knowledge afforded by crossing the boundary into a new language simultaneously opens equally rich, new frontiers into our understanding of our own; and it is a simple moral imperative, especially in a research and pedagogic institution like UCC, to take full advantage of this new opportunity to learn more about our languages. This is a primary plank in our agenda at Confucius Institute at UCC.

 

Thus, by opening our curriculum to include Chinese language and culture, we at the same time create opportunities to allow us to discover new methodologies and approaches that can ultimately re-invigorate and re-purpose our study of Ghanaian languages, including even those foreign languages we have historically learnt to tame by domestic usage. This is the broad humanistic ideal that incited the creating and crafting of the original proposal leading to the founding of the Confucius Institute at UCC, and why, for example, it was proposed to house the project in a language department, English.

 

I have no doubt that UCC shares this vision, and will encourage close and mutually beneficent collaboration between the new Institute and the various Language Departments in our university, and our study of Chinese language and culture will become even more meaningful as a result. Confucius Institute at UCC is really about a dialogue between African and Chinese hegemonies: our work will have taken root when a Ghanaian student research project at UCC is successfully able to translate Ayi Kwei Armah into Chinese, and Chinese masterpieces into Ewe or Fanti! This is the kind of mutual cultural enrichment that we seek in our continuing effort here at CI-UCC.

 

Thank you all very much.