Chinese to ‘appear for Kenya’ at art fete

Kenyan artists are protesting the selection of “foreigners” to represent the country at an upcoming exhibition in Italy.


Kenyan artists are protesting the selection of “foreigners” to represent the country at an upcoming exhibition in Italy.

The artists and culture enthusiasts say Kenya selected people who were “mostly Chinese” to participate in the 56th International Art Exhibition.
An online protest is gathering steam over the selection with 91 people upending their signatures to the petition at

The petition is titled “Renounce Kenya’s fraudulent representation at the 56th Venice Biennial 2015 and commit to support the realisation of a national pavilion in 2017”.

“For the third time, well-connected persons who lack the intellectual or creative capacity to represent Kenya’s contemporary art to the international arena, are posturing to the world as the Kenyan Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennial in Italy,” the artists protest in their petition.

But last evening, Sports and Culture Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario said Kenya would not send any representative to the event.

“Kenya is not formally being represented at this year’s event. This is as a result of poor planning on the side of the government and artists,” he said.
The Cabinet Secretary said registration should have been done early.


“We are consulting the organisers on what we can do to be allowed to participate but we advise artists to start preparing for 2017,” he said.
The Exhibition also known as the “Art Olympics” is scheduled to run from May 9 to November 22 in the iconic city of Venice.

The exhibition was founded in 1895 and is considered one of the most prestigious cultural events in the world.

Kenya is among the 53 countries contributing 136 artists to showcase their work at the event whose theme is “All the World’s Futures.”

It brings together curators, writers, performing artists, cultural entrepreneurs and managers, collectors, art educators and patrons.

A list of Kenyan participants published by the organisers shows that only one native artist, Yvonne Apiyo Braendle-Amolo, will take part.

Others are Qin Feng, Shi Jinsong, Armando Tanzini, Li Zhanyang and Lan Zheng Hui and Li Gang.

They will be exhibiting a show titled “Creating Identities”.

The problem though is that Kenyan artists claim those selected know nothing about the country’s art and were, in fact, impersonators.

“There is no Kenyan representation and the government is using this exhibition just for PR and for its own agenda,” Jane Mbugua, the Communications and Marketing Officer at Sarakasi, one of the performing arts groups in Nairobi, said.

Kenyan artists see the event as a chance to break big and elevate their careers.

This is not the first time they are being neglected.

In 2013, only two artists from Kenya took part. Kenya was represented by one Italian-Brazilian, an Italian and several Chinese.