Michael Soi was born in 1972 in Nairobi, Kenya, where he still lives and works. He is best known for his distinctive satirical approach towards contemporary social issues affecting his homeland. To better know him, here are some catchy curiosities about his life and career!
What about cats?
Soi is very much inspired by contemporary life in Nairobi. His works provide a sort of photographic diary of the city in the form of a satirical commentary of the social, economic and political trends going on in Kenya, focusing on globalization and consumerism. Over the years, he refined his own visual stylistic vocabulary, getting the public used to his desecrating irony and vivid colours. For example, he began with a big hit in a series called Fat Cats, denouncing graft as an impediment to the social and economic development of Kenya.
Much sensitive to the collective environment of his origin city, Michael also explored some hot topics such as prostitution, sex work and strip clubs in Nairobi, realizing some unscrupulous and irreverent art pieces. He represented men and women caught before, during, and after having bedtime together, consciously mocking people who are somehow involved in what he calls the “economics of love” of the African country.
… and political love.
China Loves Africa is another series by Michael Soi, realized between 2012 and 2013, and it is a cross-section of the diplomatic relationships undergoing between China and Africa. It is composed of 100 pieces impactfully and ironically questioning Beijing’s engagement in his country, and the role of leaders on both sides; the Asian President, Xi Jinping, is always represented as a larger-than-life figure overhanging the African people.
Soi confronted the China question on other occasions, especially when he got indignant about the curatorial choices made within the Kenyan Pavilion at the 2013 and 2015 Venice Biennale: the exhibited artists in there were mostly Chinese; this is how Michael’s series Shame in Venice was born. “For those who don’t know, Kenya has a lot of great contemporary artists who can represent it at whatever level”, stated Soi, “Kenyan Pavilion is as phony as a 3-dollar bill!”.
Despite every controversy, Michael Soi pleaded guilty to being in love with Venice and Italy. Since he was a child, the artist has been passionate about football, and he still is a great fan of Francesco Totti, but his affection for the Peninsula especially comes from the Italian people’s kindness and spontaneity, from the delicious food, wine, and… grappa!
Check out the artist’s profile at akkaproject.com/artists to discover more about Soi’s extraordinary canvases, and be updated with the upcoming events!