Diallo, former first counsellor at the Embassy of Mali in Beijing, China, has nurtured a special affinity for China since he was a young man. His father was the principal of a school and the school's construction was aided by China. When he was young, Chinese songs were often played in school, so much so that he learned some songs without knowing the meaning of the lyrics at all. Although he still cannot speak Chinese, he can sing some of those songs.
In 2011, he came to Jinhua for the first time as a representative of the Malian delegation to attend a China-Africa forum in Hangzhou. Two years later, as a representative of an African diplomatic delegation, he returned to Jinhua and visited the African Museum at Zhejiang Normal University, or ZJNU. In December 2014, Diallo accompanied the then-ambassador of Mali to China, Lansina Kone, on another visit. They went to ZJNU and donated five Malian works of art from his collection to its African Museum. He said the pieces he donated filled a gap in the Malian section of the museum.
In 2017, Diallo completed his diplomatic posting to Beijing and ZJNU invited him to join the Institute of African Studies at the university and its museum to conduct research and he gratefully accepted. “Going from humming the Chinese songs I learned at school when I was a kid, to having the opportunity to work in Chinese higher education made me proud,” he said.
Enhancing understanding between the peoples of China and Africa
“The excellent environment and friendly people make me feel like I’m at home, ” Diallo said, explaining that working at ZJNU has been the best time of his life.
In the office, he and his colleagues refer to each other as brothers and sisters. He loves the noodles in Jinhua as well as Wuju Opera; he particularly loves exploring the local historical villages, where he feels the unique sense of ancient civilization that characterizes the city. Diallo has shared these adventures with his own people.
With the students in school, Diallo regularly talks about Malian geography, its population, ethnicity, religion, language, art and traditional customs. With a special focus on Mali, he introduces particular features such traditional musical instruments -- like the djembe, kora, ngoni. He also explains traditional customs and practices -- such as Malian weddings -- to deepen the cultural understanding and awareness of Africa.
Diallo is working on the final part of his book, a study on African products. He hopes that he can take part in a larger number of projects to a compile series of books on local Chinese characteristics and the ancient civilization of Africa, in order to enhance mutual understanding among the nations and the peoples of Africa and China. Over the years, he has been working hard to build a friendly bridge between China and Mali. In October 2020, Yoro Diallo also wrote in the mainstream media in Mali, calling for further strengthening of bonds and cooperation between China and African countries in the fields of security and development.
Hoping to stay in this restful city
In January 2020, Diallo returned to Mali due to work, unaware of the impending outbreak of COVID, which prevented him from returning to Jinhua. “The virus in Mali is still relatively stable. While I’m at home, I miss my colleagues and friends in Jinhua and hope to come back soon,” he said.
Since moving to Jinhua, his eldest daughter has visited him twice. “She thinks Jinhua is an easy-going and safe city and she considers ZJNU to be one of the top universities in the world,” Diallo said. He says he would like to stay in this beautiful city for the rest of his life, given half a chance.
(Text by Wu Yueyue, photos provided by Yoro Diallo, translated by Marco Lovisetto, edited by Kendra Fiddler)