Satire and totes with Michael Soi

Art + Illustration

Kenyan artist, Michael Soi, is well recognized for his satirical art. His work is very distinctive and reminiscent of cartoons you see in papers or in front of local barbershops which criticize government and make fun of pop culture. Through his art, he primarily challenges politics, corruption, economic issues (e.g. the China/Africa ‘love’ affair), and commercial sex work.

Michael Soi art

For a while though, Michael was translating his work, mainly his distinct female forms, on tote bags. We love this cause it provides his art to audiences who may not be in the art scene, and because tote bags are going to be big in Kenya given their recent plastic bag ban. His bags reached another level when Lupita Nyong’o was photographed with his bags and declared her love for them!   His interview with Business Daily where he talks about the bags (amongst other things) cracks us up!

“These bags weren’t supposed to be a thing. I made a couple and left them in my studio and an expatriate woman saw one and asked, “are you selling this bag.’’ I said “no, but you can have it if you want it.” Then she brought two other people. More people started asking for them, so I made two, then three, then 10, then 50. Lupita got one and posted it on her social media and my social media went crazy. Everybody wanted a bag.

For the next year, I didn’t paint anything, I was making these bags because the demand was just crazy. I soon realised this is not what I am. This is not what I do. This is something I do for fun and to make that quick extra coin. I realised if I wasn’t careful, I would end up becoming a bag-maker. I’m glad that the demand went down. Two years down the line, the demand has gone down to a place where I’m very comfortable with it.” ~ Michael Soi

Curious about these accidentally famous bags? Take a peak:

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