A Kenyan Painter Casts a Critical Eye on China’s Role in Africa

By Abdi Latif Dahir
In a lengthy series of satirical paintings, the Kenyan artist Michael Soi has depicted China as the latest in a series of imperialistic powers eager to plunder Africa’s natural resources — and corrupt African leaders as eager to play along.Khadija Farah for The New York Times
NAIROBI, Kenya — In the painting, one of 100 on the same theme, China’s president, Xi Jinping, appears as he has in all the previous ones: a larger-than-life figure who commands attention because of the goodies he has brought with him. Decked in a flowing white garment, Mr. Xi is surrounded by a crowd of black men — some with bald heads, others with unkempt beards — all reaching out for the dollars leaking out of a briefcase. The work of a Kenyan artist and painter, Michael Soi, the collection “China Loves Africa” questions the guiding principles of Beijing’s engagement in Africa, scrutinizes the role of leaders on both sides in shaping the relationship and examines the consequences for ordinary citizens. The bright acrylic paintings on canvas have proven popular and polarizing and have offered a creative and complex approach to China-Africa relations. [More]