For six years that Wode Maya lived in China, his worst moment of anti-Black discrimination was when he set out looking for a job and was denied just because he was Black. “Hey, we are looking for a Black man who looks like Obama, but you don’t look like Obama,” he was told.
These disparaging comments coupled with incidents of discrimination against him in public buses and trains compelled him to start a YouTube channel to share his experiences as a Black man living in China.
In one of his first videos, Wode Maya, then a BLCU student in China, is seen in a bus with the seat beside him remaining empty throughout the journey as scores of Chinese passengers decided to stand instead of getting closer to him.
That video immediately went viral and today, Wode Maya, who quit his job as an aeronautical engineer, is traveling around Africa as one of Ghana’s top YouTubers telling the African story with a wide collection of engaging videos that are changing the narrative about the continent.
With over 550,000 subscribers, the Ghanaian YouTuber has so far been to 17 African countries and interviewed about 200 personalities doing amazing things for the continent. And he gives all the thanks to his parents, particularly his mom, who supported his dreams right from the start.
Growing up from a village in Kofikrom in the western region of Ghana, Wode Maya, born Berthold Kobby Winkler, had the opportunity to travel to China to further his studies. Trained as an aeronautical engineer, Wode Maya ended up as a vlogger due to his personal experiences with discrimination.
“It all started when I got tired of how Chinese people see me as a Black man coming from Africa,” Wode Maya told Face2face Africa. “They thought that nothing good comes from Africa; Africa is a warzone area so I decided to take this upon myself to change the narratives. So I decided to quit my job. I’m an aeronautical engineer. I decided to quit my job, go out there and promote Africa in my own way as a black man telling the African story.”
His first videos about his experiences in China were packed with humor and entertaining jokes, and his father, who was then against his vlogging idea, urged him to go one step further. With Wode Maya being a fluent Mandarin Chinese speaker, his father thought it would be ideal if he could educate Chinese people he meets regularly about Africa.
“That is where I listened to my dad and decided to talk about Africa-China relationship, and from there, my whole YouTube channel escalated. I mean, I thank my mom for supporting my dream but I also thank my dad for giving me that idea to become who I am right now.”
Having left China with a loan from friends to pursue his passions, Wode Maya first traveled to about five African countries sharing his travel experiences and each country’s culture. And today, his YouTube channel Wode Maya, which started off as a bridge between Africa and Asia, has grown to be the welcome train to the African diaspora, he says on his website.
Wode Maya’s videos usually start with AIYA MAYA, AIYA WODE MAYA, which means “oh my god” in the northeastern Chinese dialect, and with the unstoppable rise of digital content creation in today’s world, Wode Maya is so proud of choosing that path.
“Digital content creation is something very lucrative, it’s something I think it’s worth more than being an engineer, being a doctor, being a pilot,” he said. “People tell me to go and look for a job. ‘Why are you in front of the camera?’ I just wanna tell people out there that I can literally employ you, let you stay in your room, and then pay you every month.”
And Wode Maya, who is urging all and sundry to always follow their dreams, is doing great with his mission to “showcase the hidden jewels of Africa.” But having lived in China for about six years, he is worried about the Africa-China relationship which he says it’s not “a win-win cooperation.”
Describing itself as a friend of Africa, China is strategically offering a helping hand in the infrastructural development of the continent while it positions itself as a global superpower. It has won the hearts of many African leaders and continental bodies with its several generous projects that have, however, raised eyebrows among the international community.
Analysts believe that China’s interest in the continent is to overburden countries with debts to enable neo-colonization, and Wode Maya shares the same view.
“…Our people here are signing contracts that will benefit their pockets so China has seen that and they are going to feed you with money because money is not the problem in china so they are gonna pump in money for which they know that if they are giving you 1 billion dollars, at the end of the day, they are going to earn 5 billion dollars, so they don’t care.
“It’s about time the leaders in Africa will think twice and say that we are gonna sign deals that will benefit the people of the continent but not our pockets…If we don’t take care, they [China] will soon colonize the continent.”