Soi hits them for the way they’ve walked onto the continent, apparently as good guys, but Soi sees their motives as suspect. In ‘China Loves Africa,’ his current exhibition at Circle Art Gallery, Soi uses visual satire to expose what he sees as Chinese new mode of neo-colonialism.
What compelled Soi to look more critically into the Chinese presence in Africa was Kenyans’ preparations for participation in the 2015 Venice Biennale. During that time, local artists had discovered they were being misrepresented at that world-class art fair. Anonymous Chinese artists had occupied a so-called ‘Kenyan Pavilion’ in Venice in 2013, and they were getting set to do it again in 2015.
The 77 artworks that make up his ‘China Loves Africa’ series have been created over the last four years. Unfortunately, the majority of them exist only in the artist’s online archive since they’ve been bought.
Indeed, one reason for his worldwide popularity is due to his transparent use of Facebook. His FB fan-base watches him as he works, step by step, in the case of practically every painting. In that way, he cultivates a feeling of familiarity with his fans. Some even come to Kenya just to meet the artist and get one of his hand-painted bags from him personally.
Soi says that one other incentive that inspired him to create so many different stories about how ‘China Loves Africa’ was an incident that took place in 2016. Six Chinese drove to the GoDown, came into his studio and started harassing and lambasting him for abusing their people through his art. They even called him ‘ungrateful’ for what China is doing for Africa, which he found ironic.
But rather than be intimidated by their visit, Soi says it ignited even more passion in him to expose the arrogance of these foreigners who apparently intend to one day control the continent if Africans don’t wake up and not allow it to happen.
One of his initial commentaries on the Chinese came in the form of a painting that became iconic among Kenyan art lovers who were unhappy about the way Chinese artists had gone to the world-class ‘Venice Biennale’ art fair, occupying the so-called Kenya Pavilion. Their presumptuous occupation of the space meant for Kenyans galled local artists and their friends; but Michael’s painting exposed the duplicity of their pretentious presence at the Biennale.