Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Winds from Beijing

The Chinese community in Nairobi had a rare concert/Performance on September 8, 2011 at the University of Nairobi Taifa Hall.  The performance was aptly titled ‘The wind from Dunhuang’ and was performed under the auspices of Forum for China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) which China in cooperates a culture aspect of engagement with Africa.
So under this auspices China has a Chinese Culture in Focus 2011 calendar of events in which it organizes exhibitions, performances, concerts, operas, kite flying and Chinese book fairs in countries where it has a presence in Africa. Some of these countries are Mauritius, Tanzania, Seychelles, Gabon, Burundi, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Senegal, South Africa and Kenya.
The last two countries South Africa and Kenya experiencing a lot of contact and spotlight from Beijing now that Egypt the seat of FOCAC  is undergoing some turbulent times as a result of the Arab Spring/Uprising.
The Event
The event was set up at the Nairobi University grounds which houses the Confucius Institute and has been very cordial to China under Prof. Magoha’s tenure.
The performance was an evening event and by 7.30 the hall was half full of Chinese living in Kenya (Some of the with Jackets with the logo of Wu Yi a Chinese company constructing Thika road) and few students (some Chinese students) and other students at the University who out of curiosity wanted to see what was happening in the hall.
A table with red piece of cloth was set for the dignitaries at the front (Chinese ambassador to Kenya and other dignitaries accompanying the troupe on its tour of African countries).
The Performance
The performance started at 8pm and we were treated to some great performances on this evening. A dance: Raise your bridal veil kicked off the evening with Chinese drums playing in the background. Mind you the evening performances were done with a playback on the background. There after a female solo: A glass of good wine was performed by one of the MC’s.
We were also given a folk dance number from Tibet: The Love Song of Kangding and boy that dance was perfectly executed. This showcased the liveness and kind of shyness of Tibetan girls and later we were treated to a male group dance-the happy Tibetans (Political undertones?)
Showcasing the diversity of China we were treated to a play of Matouqin. A Mongol string musical instrument with two aptly titled performances; A thousand horses are galloping ahead and sing a spring song in pasture
Acrobatic Shows
Also on the menu from China was an acrobatic show which was good and a unique skill in Sichuan opera-Changing Faces which great.
Friends, Partners & Brothers
Just as we have a book by Elizabeth Gilbert with the philosophy of eat, pray and love. The philosophy or the mantra that Beijing is sending out to Africa was out there to be showcased.
The evening ended with these words ‘Friends Partner Brother’ in a banner. This is the message that Beijing is sending out to Africa.
Now I am looking forward to Embrace China-Performance and visit by Chinese Arts Troupe and Chinese Book Fair.
The Return of China to Africa
Dan Large’s book The Return of China to Africa is a worthwhile read to understand the China-Africa Geopolitics.

Exhibition: Recent Paintings by Michael Soi

The current exhibition at the French Cultural Centre running until the end of this month (September 2011) caught my eye first because of what it addressees (strip joints in Nairobi which are hardly talked about) and also because it contains some salient political undertones such as the issue of payment of taxes by our legislatures, the G7 alliance and the ‘nutty professor series’ which addresses the free primary education (FPE) scum.
Michael addresses international issues in sports such as the debate currently ongoing in France to have more white players playing for the Le Blue (the French National team). A rather bold piece if you look at the space where he is exhibiting (French space)!
Gor Mahia one of the teams which plays in the National Football league also features in the exhibition and so does Arsenal Football Club. Perhaps this is a reflection to the teams Soi supports.
The current works of Soi also address the current happening in the field of politics both in Kenya with a depiction of the G7 Alliance in the classical way Soi does it on canvas. Depicting politicians as with heads of cats and not wearing any trousers!
The geopolitics in Africa especially what is going on in Libya are addresses with a depiction of the 18th African heads of states session on Libya which watches as Gaddafi is hanged by outside forces (EU, NATO and USA).
The ICC process and court proceeding at the Hague have also been highlighted in canvas.

The ‘nutty professor series’ which highlights the professors heading the Ministry of Education in a whole new light you could possibly imagine is also on display. In fact this is the series that got me knowing about Soi. He had this series on display sometimes back at RaMoMa.
Strip Clubs
So this is the boldest piece of this exhibition and it showcases what happens in some joints in Nairobi when darkness falls. So as I understood it from a dialogue I had with Soi the ‘strip club series’ sheds light on the patrons who frequent this spaces 

Kuona Open Day
 I had an encounter with Michael in Naivasha during the Kuona Open day (as the exhibition clearly states he is a second generation artists from Kuona Art Gallery). This was like 2 weeks before he set up his exhibition at the French Cultural Centre (FCC).  He explained to me the thinking behind his works and also I came to know some of his collector’s esp. the ‘nutty professor series’.