The “This Is Africa” exhibit at the Hubei Provincial Museum in Wuhan included pairs of photos all taken by photographer You Huiping that depicted animals and black African people of all ages making similar facial expressions. According to The New York Times, one pair included a child and a chimpanzee, another a man and a lion, and yet another a man and a baboon. The pictures have now all been taken down after complaints by Africans, including international students living in China, who were offended by the implied comparison of people of their race and wild animals.
“The target of the exhibition is mainly a Chinese audience,” said Wang Yuejun, the curator of the exhibit, said in a statement. Wang also admitted that the idea to juxtapose the animal and human photos were his ideas and not that of the photographer.
Wang also said that “in Chinese proverbs, animals are always used for admiration and compliment,” adding that in China, comparing animals and humans is common and often considered a compliment.
But Wang eventually took the photos down because Wang admitted that “putting the photos of African tribespeople and animals together hurt the feelings of the African tribespeople.” He removed the exhibit to “show respect for our African friends’ opinions.”
As the Times points out, this isn’t the first time that Chinese culture has appeared shockingly racist to Western audiences. Just this past week, China’s most popular chatting app, WeChat, was called out for translating a Chinese phrase that means “black foreigner” into the n-word. Last year, a commercial for laundry detergent shocked audiences as it depicted a black man being thrown into a washing machine and washed with a particular brand of laundry detergent and emerging into a Chinese man.