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Afro-Chinese Marriages: Mixed families on the rise in Guangzhou


UPDATED :2024-03-28

China's southern city of Guangzhou is famous for its large African diaspora and the city plays a key role in bridging the cultural gap between China and Africa. A big part of this — love, and marriage. CGTN's Peninah Karibe has the story.

Sharry Zhen met her husband Mamadou Koita in 2007. He left his home country Mali to do business in Hong Kong, and later crossed into neighbouring Guangzhou where he met Sharry, also a businessperson. As fate would have it, they fell in love, and after three years of dating they tied the knot. While Mamadou's family was more accepting of the relationship, Sharry says her family didn't quite feel the same way.

Back then, she says Afro-Chinese marriages were not common in China, and she had to explain her unique relationship to her family and friends. Their different backgrounds also presented other challenges. While Sharry does not subscribe to any religion, her husband is Muslim and observes the religious practice of praying five times a day.

Sharry Zhen, Guangzhou resident, said: "First time it was hard but after staying for some time, I'm okay coz I know people have their beliefs. Second thing is food. You know, we are in a different country. Eating differently, but my husband tried eating the Chinese food now; he likes Chinese food."

As more and more people from African countries head to Guangzhou for trade and business opportunities, families such as Sharry's are on the rise. Their twins, Eva and Adam, have a large following on Chinese social media as they often post about their talents and passion. The twins excel in various sports and have won several awards. At the tender age of 9, their goals are clear.

Eva Koita, daughter in Afro-Chinese family, said: "I want to be a professional athlete."

Adam Koita, son in Afro-Chinese family, said: "I want to be a runner. My favourite runner is Bolt."

Despite their popularity, not everyone understands their mixed heritage. The parents say they have to constantly encourage their children to see beyond the bigoted comments the children sometimes receive.

Mamadou Koita, expat in Guangzhou, said: "Sometimes some people feel the black colour is not good, but I always tell my children about this. I say don't worry it's only colour but people are the same. The only difference is the colour."

For Sharry and Mamadou, commitment to their family has been key to tightening their bond. But Mamadou is currently back home in Africa, where he's been for the past six months.

Mamadou has learnt to balance time spent between his family in China and businesses in Africa.

Mamadou Koita, expat in Guangzhou, said: "I like my children so everywhere I stay in China I stay with them. I go out with them together to eat. Eating together, enjoying together, the school, holidays. We go to outside China together. I want to be a good father to them."

Peninah Karibe in Guangzhou, China, said: "It's often said that love conquers all. This may be true even more so here in Guangzhou, where the number of inter-racial marriages continues to grow. Afro-Chinese families such as this one are helping bridge cultural divides by promoting a deeper understanding between the two sides."

Editor: Pauline