August 23, 2018
By Joseph S. Margai
Sierra Leonean entertainer, Mariatu Kargbo, has said in an exclusive interview with this medium recently in Beijing that she is loved by the Chinese people, remarking that China creates the enabling environment for every talent to thrive.
Maliya, as she is popularly called by her Chinese admirers, told this medium that she came to China in 2004 at the age of 16.
“I came to take part in the Miss Kite Beauty Pageant held in Shandong. It’s a very big event that is held annually. In that event, 100 countries participated and I was in the first three. After which, I did a song about Shandong, which I described as a beautiful city and I was appreciated by the Chinese people,” she said.
Maliya recalled that after that event she fell sick and on her way to see her friends in Shenzhen to seek medication, she met a Chinese woman who helped her restore her health.
“The Chinese woman, who I considered my adopted mother, took me to the hospital and paid all my medical expenses. Because of the assistance rendered to me by that woman during those trying moments, I fell in love with the entire Chinese people,” she recalled.
She said that in 2007 she participated in the “China Got Talent” event and out of 19,000 participants she was ranked in fourth position, adding that she became famous afterwards.
“I was the first black lady that brought over 30 black dancers who were doing fireworks on stage. It was a widely watched television programme. Since then, I became popular among the Chinese,” she said.
Maliya said she was motivated to stay in China because the Chinese are very hard-working and committed to whatever they are doing, adding that she was also interested to learn the Chinese Kung Fu and Opera as China was the best place for her to actualise her dream.
According to her, she was part of a dance troupe in Sierra Leone, remarking that in her schools days she was into athletics as well as singing in a church choir, and later joined the Sierra Leone Scout Association.
“But I wanted to realise the full potential of the talents in me and at that time, China was the only place that could provide that platform for me. I have never regretted my action of staying in China because I have actually acquired lots of fame during my stay here,” she said.
Quizzed about her best moment in China, she boastfully said she has many good moments, prime amongst them being the time her medical expenses were paid by a Chinese woman that was a virtual stranger.
“Another moment was when I performed with Jackie Chan at the Olympic stadium in 2008 as the first black woman,” she remembered.
Maliya is multitalented; she is sings, dances, paints, and also does modeling.
“I also create a situation where Chinese investors are taken to Africa and ensure that their investments are secured. As you may be aware, there are lots of complaints by some Chinese investors who are claiming that they are duped by some Africans whenever they go there to invest. But I always ensure that I bridge existing gaps in such a way that nobody cries foul,” she noted.
The entertainer proudly stated that she is the first black woman to stage a very big and successful concert in China, adding that many international artistes have done successful concerts in China, but as a China-based black artiste, she is the first to have done something special and successful.
“I have made the brand of Africa, especially Sierra Leone, very big in China. Any big city you visit in China and mention my name “Maliya”, many Chinese would think of Africa. I am one of the blacks that the Chinese adopted and accepted as their own and I am very proud of that. I also thank them for their hospitality,” she stated.
As a Sierra Leonean, she revealed she would someday return home to impart what she has learned to local entertainers. However, she was emphatic that she would not leave China because the country has become her second home.
She said in 2009, at the Miss World, she was the first black woman to combine both Sierra Leone and Chinese cultures and performed to the admiration of onlookers.
Maliya quoted ex-President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, who described her as a tree that should be always watered by Sierra Leoneans so as to continue to yield fruits.
“To be honest, the Chinese appreciate my contribution to entertainment so much. China has always made me to feel better than my country. I will lay my life for China anywhere. China has never discriminated against me and has provided many things for me that my country has never done for me. Also, the Chinese love Sierra Leone and that is evident in the past and ongoing projects that they are doing in the West African country,” she proudly said.
She remarked that gone are the days when people thought of China as a third-world country.
“Most Africans have been brainwashed by western media reports about China, but I want to honestly state that this is the safest place to live on earth. If the world looks like China it will be very good. There is no security threats, no wars, the people are disciplined, no kidnapping here. See, I have travelled to many countries in the world, but I’m happy and safe to live in China,” she said.
As China and Africa are in earnest preparation for the upcoming Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), Maliya revealed that she will be playing a great role in the event that will attract most African leaders and other world diplomats.
Asked what she has been giving back to Sierra Leone, she proudly said she contributed 70 percent to maintenance and sustenance of the national museum in Sierra Leone.
“I used my hard-earned cash to facilitate electricity connectivity to Devil Hole, a community in the Western Area Rural District of Sierra Leone. I have established and sustain schools, mosques, houses in Sierra Leone. I have already been supporting physically challenged persons in Jui, another Western Area Rural District community,” she narrated.
She also revealed that she has helped built one of the biggest mosques in Waterloo, which accommodates over 3,000 worshippers, adding that she owns schools in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown.
“Prior to Sierra Leone’s general elections this year, I donated one million United States Dollars (US$1m) powdered milk to malnourished children,” she said.
She called on all Africans to learn from China in a bid to develop the continent.
“It is in Sierra Leone that you see many people insulting their president instead of supporting him to succeed. That’s very bad, collective as well as individual support is always needed for a nation to develop,” she stated.
Maliya also advised entertainers in Sierra Leone to sing ‘real songs’ that can bring positive transformation to the country.
“The reality is that most musicians have been painting a very bad image about their country in their songs, thereby frustrating investors to invest in that particular country. Produce songs that will bring laurels to Sierra Leone. They should thrive to compete in the international stage,” she said.