A Kenyan girl Ms. Mwamaka Sharifu Lali traveled outside her ancestral home on a two weeks trip to look for her ancestors. She wanted to know who they were and where they came from. The journey took her to Taicang City in East China's Jiangsu Province, which will forever remain a special place for Mwamaka.
"This is where my ancestors came from," she said in an interview on arrival at the airport in Mombasa. Mwamaka who attended Siyu Primary and Lamu Girls High schools, has rightfully been nicknamed "Chinese Girl". Her complexion and features tell a story.
History says a Chinese ancient navigator, Zheng He of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), commanded seven expeditions to Western oceans between 1405-1433. Navigating by compass and astronomical readings, Zheng's fleet sailed to many countries in Asia and African including present-day Kenya. With the expeditions, Chinese culture and technological influences spread. Historians say Zheng's fleet began their maiden tour from Taicang city which the "Chinese Girl' visited.
In 2002, Chinese experts visited Mwamaka's home in Siyu and confirmed that she was of Chinese descent. Mwamaka, whose father, Shariffa Lali is a fisherman in Lamu, was born in a remote village where many pieces of ancient china were unearthed recently.
Legend has it that one or two Chinese trade vessel, said to be of Zheng's sank near the island hundreds of years ago. The shipwrecked sailors swam to safety and settled on dry land where they later intermarried with local women.
During her trip to China, Mwamaka traveled with Malindi Municipal Council Mayor Alfred Muramba and attended special celebrations to mark Zheng He's 600th anniversary of navigation. Mwamaka's future now looks bright after the Chinese government through its Nairobi Embassy facilitated her trip to China, where she was offered a scholarship to study medicine. She took the offer and will be returning to China in September.
"This kind of gesture from the People's Republic of China is not only a boost to me and my immediate family but to the suffering and poor folk in Lamu," she said. She intends to come back home and work among her people after her studies.
Besides Taicang, she visited Shanghai, Nanjing and Beijing. She also toured the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.