A Chinese user of Weibo, a popular blogging platform, said she was blown away by the photos in that section.
“When Yu Huiping’s photos were projected on the big screen, I was shocked by the children’s gaze and the primal state of the animals,” wrote the user, identified as Ailuxixi, adding that she liked the section “very much.”
The exhibit at the Hubei Provincial Museum is called “This is Africa” and it compared Africans to animals.
Allegedly the photo series meant to “celebrate the harmony between man and nature”, as captured by a photographer and businessman during his travels to Africa over the past decade. The exhibition, “This is Africa,” includes the typical shots of elephants, cheetahs, and sunsets over the savanna, but makes one crucial miscalculation. A section titled, “One’s heart makes one’s appearance” features portraits of African children and adults next to animals.
“In one, a photo of an elderly man is placed next to that of a monkey. In another, the image of a young African man looking over his shoulder sits next to a photo of a cheetah in the same pose. A child with an open mouth is placed next to a gorilla. Among photos of the exhibit circulating African student groups in China is one of Chinese children posing underneath the image, making similar expressions. The student who shared the photos asked not to be named for fear of being targeted by immigration officials.” qz.com
The section’s pictures, all made by the photographer Yu Huiping, were taken down after complaints by Africans, including students living in China, the exhibit’s curator said in a statement.
On Friday, WeChat, China’s most popular mobile messaging app, apologized that its translation software was rendering the Chinese words for “black foreigner” as a racial slur in English. Last year, the makers of Qiaobi laundry detergent were criticized for an advertisement that depicted a black man being washed with the product, only to turn into a light-skinned Chinese man.
A curator at the exhibit, Wang Yuejun, said the decision to hang the photos of people and animals together was his own idea, and not that of Mr. Yu.
“The target of the exhibition is mainly a Chinese audience,” Mr. Wang said in a statement, adding that comparisons between people and animals are common in China and often a compliment.
“It’s not shocking. Africans are not strangers to racism here in China or elsewhere. But it is sad that despite deepening economic connections and interactions between Chinese and Africans, there’s still clearly so much racism and lack of cultural understanding,” says Zahra Baitie, a Ghanaian master’s student at Tsinghua University studying global affairs.