News / Africa

Artist Uses Racy Subjects to Show 'Real' Kenya

Artist Uses Racy Subjects to Show 'Real' Kenyai
X
April 26, 2013 6:57 PM
Nairobi artist Michael Soi paints subjects that he says make Kenyans “uncomfortable,” - such as commercial sex workers, interracial relationships, the China-Africa partnership and the recent elections. Jill Craig profiles Soi, his art, and what it says about Kenya.
Jill Craig
— As the art scene in Kenya has grown, Michael Soi's works have become searing depictions of society, including the underworld of strip clubs, prostitution, and police corruption, as well as everyday contradictions in politics and personal lives.

The Nairobi artist said he aims to show life as it really is.
 
“It’s just because I choose to work on issues that a lot of Kenyan artists choose not to work with.  I use, I basically create, work that would be seen as work that disturbs people,” he explained.

For example, Soi did a series of paintings on Nairobi strip clubs, in which he focused more on the men’s reactions than on the women themselves.

Soi admitted that he likes exposing hypocrisy in society.

“It’s a community that basically loves to dig a hole and bury your head in the sand and pretend that these things don’t happen.  But unfortunately, they do,” the artist noted.

According to Danda Jaroljmek, the founder of the Circle Art Agency, Soi has never been afraid to push conventional limits.

“I think up until recently, artists were very uncomfortable about being overtly political.  People were frightened to do that, and I’ve noticed over the last five, seven years that it has become open," she said. 

"But he’s still one of the forerunners because his work is very humorous, and he deliberately makes it understandable because he wants his audience to be local Kenyans who can relate to his work and understand it,  as opposed to art being a sort of elitist thing where only the upper classes can appreciate,”  Jaroljmek added.

She said Soi’s artwork usually amuses passersby.  In fact, she recently brought his painting of voting lines during the March elections to a show in Nairobi.

“And every single person who walked past that piece laughed their heads off, you know, from the cleaner to the general manager," she recalled. "So I think people treat it with humor.  I think it’s just a humorous thing.  But it is a subject people are a bit uncomfortable talking about.”

Issues that make Kenyans squirm are precisely the ones that Soi wants to document for future generations through his artwork.

“I am basically trying to create what I want to call a social pictorial diary," he explained. "You know, I am just documenting this city, I am just documenting this country at this particular moment.”

And Soi has no plans to stop documenting these moments anytime soon.

You May Like

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Okoko Ashikoye from: Mombasa
April 29, 2013 12:05 PM
Very Impressive nice piece of Art from Micheal Soi. It really defines who we are as a Kenyan people with a lighter touch not withstanding.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid