When speculations were rife that a Chinese museum displayed exhibits which compared Africans to animals it seemed like cheap propaganda. However, when the speculations grew to facts, controversy ensued causing a massive media outrage.
The Hubei Provincial Museum in Wuhan displayed the exhibition since late September ahead of the Chinese national Golden Week holiday.
The exhibition which was titled ‘This Is Africa’ displayed a series of photos, each one containing a photo of an African person paired with the face of an animal.
The series which was captured on video and uploaded on Instagram was tagged with a title which when translated to Chinese means “outward appearance follows inner reality.”
In one photo, a young boy was pictured next to a photo of a chimp. Other images featured black people next to gorillas, lions and other wild animals.
How “This Is Africa” Came About
The exhibition which started September 28 belongs to renowned Chinese photographer Yu Huiping. Huiping has traveled to Africa more than 20 times and has previously won awards for his inspiring works.
According to the photographer, his exhibition “This is Africa” was engineered for the purpose of giving visitors or tourists “a sense of ‘primitive life’ in Africa through the interplay of humans, animal, and nature.”
However, Yu Huiping who is the vice-president of Hubei Photographers Association and a lover of wildlife obviously overstepped boundaries when he opted to compare Africans to wild animals.
The original video was deleted after it was posted by one of the supposed visitors to the Chinese museum, Nigerian Edward E. Duke.
Tagging news outlets including CNN and BBC, the Nigerian national posted the video with the caption “the capital museum in Wuhan, China put pictures of a particular race next to wild animals why? Are they the only race to have impoverished looking.”
Moreso, African students complained about the exhibit to their university deans and others petitioned their embassies. Before the week was through, the story even made its way to international media outlets.
The event at the Chinese museum has been discussed on various platforms across the globe, calling to memory the painful ordeal suffered by blacks among the whites in the past.
Chinese Museum Pulls Down ‘Racist’ Photos
Following massive online outrage and complaints of racism against the exhibition, the Hubei Provincial Museum in Wuhan pulled down the photos which according to reports, were scheduled to remain until October 17th.
The Chinese museum has not issued an apology over the controversial but has given explanations to emphasize the motive behind the exhibition.
Wang Yuejun, the curator in charge of the exhibit, described as “overreactions,” the charges of racism against the display maintaining that the museum had not intended to discriminate against any culture.
He also went further to emphasize the Chinese way of associating humans with animals through the Chinese zodiac, which was simply mirrored in the exhibition. According to him, the photos just call for harmony between humans and animals.
“The exhibit’s main audience is Chinese. In the Chinese esthetic, comparing people to animals is not offensive.” He said in a statement.
Are the Chinese Racist?
There have been several reports of discrimination against Africans in China.
Racial sensitivities are often muddled in China, where about 92% of the population belongs to the dominant Han ethnicity and ethnic minorities mostly live in the sporadically populated far west of the country.
It is quite unfortunate especially as African countries are increasingly important trading partners.
However, it is important to note that comparisons to animals are typically seen as a compliment in Chinese culture, pointing to the zodiac signs that identify people with animals according to their birth year.