13-06-2019 by Freddie del Curatolo
His name is Michael Soi, he is 47 years old and for over twenty years he has been considered one of the most innovative, brilliant and irreverent artists in Kenya.
Painter, illustrator and creative of pop-art with a strong satirical vein, Soi takes inspiration particularly from contemporary life in Nairobi.
His colorful works, including cartoons and caricatures, rich in detail and distinctive signs, but also original portraits, are a kind of photographic diary of the emerging society of his country and is one of the most lucid and scratching visions of his social and political trends.
Soi is also an investigator of the interracial and intereconomic relationships that in a multi-ethnic metropolis like Nairobi intertwine with what he calls the "business of love", with traditions, globalization and consumerism.
His series "China loves Africa", for example, is a sarcastic, iconoclastic and courageous cross-section of the Asian giant's presence in Kenya.
Lately, his fame has reached overseas (Atlantic) for his amusing portraits of Donald Trump.
Malindikenya.net met the artist in Nairobi, to talk about his relationship with Italy, a country that has attracted him since he was a child.
"But then football was at stake - reveals Soi - I was a fan of Serie A, in particular of Totti and Zidane. With friends we grew up with the dream of the country of football. Then my studies led me to discover the greats of art, from Leonardo Da Vinci onwards, and my perception has definitely changed.
Soi loves to travel, in recent years he has participated in numerous workshops and conferences, as well as in Italy and the African continent, has exhibited in international exhibitions and has a huge following of collectors and enthusiasts around the world.
"My regular appointment with Italy is every two years, at the Venice Biennale - explains the Kenyan artist - but now you can say that the Biennale is almost an excuse, in fact I love Venice and Italy, even if for now in addition to the lagoon city I visited only briefly Rome. But I'm already planning to visit Florence. I love Venice above all because you don't see cars around, a bit like here in Lamu. But Venice is rich in history, I like to relate and converse with its people, eat well and drink the delicious grappa of the territory.
For Soi Kenya and Italy they should work together to make known the beauty of our country and the usefulness that art and culture can have on the creativity and open-mindedness of its countrymen.
Meanwhile, he looks ahead to the next challenges, with brushstrokes and pencils.
"I want to create a work that highlights the problems of women in Africa - the artist reveals - in particular those that derive from the way men see women here and the way they treat them. It is often an uncomfortable subject, many prefer not to talk about it. Yet it is still the case, women still have the role of donors of pleasure, they are little more than a tool thanks to which men can enjoy. This is a subject that I have been interested in for a long time, I would like to make the male gender reflect on how they see women and how they still tend to relate to them".
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