The photography exhibit in Hubei is expected to end this week. The state news media reported that so far, more than 170,000 people had visited the exhibit, which went up during a national holiday.
Mr. Yu, an award-winning photographer and vice chairman of the Hubei Photographers Association, has visited Africa more than 20 times. He did not return several calls seeking comment.
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.
Mr. Wang said many Chinese people relate to their animal familiars assigned by the Chinese zodiac and “in Chinese proverbs, animals are always used for admiration and compliment.”
Once it was brought to his attention, Mr. Wang said, that “putting the photos of African tribespeople and animals together hurt the feelings of the African tribespeople,” and to “show respect for our African friends’ opinions,” the offending pictures were removed.
On social media, the exhibit received mixed reviews. Edward E. Duke, a Nigerian Instagram user, posted video of the exhibit, which was first published by the website Shanghaiist. The museum, he wrote in a post that was later removed, “put pictures of a particular race next to wild animals why?”
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.”