The Brooklyn Museum presents the work of British-based, Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE, whose art explores the relationship between African identity and European colonialism. The exhibition includes more than twenty works, among them sculptures, paintings, large-scale installations, and films.
Shonibare is best known for working with visual symbols, especially the richly patterned Dutch wax fabric, produced in Europe for a West African market, which he uses in a wide range of applications. His tableaux of headless mannequins costumed in this fabric evoke themes of history and its legacy for future generations. Through these works he explores the complex web of interactions, both economic and racial, that reveal inequalities between the dominant and colonized cultures of Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Yinka Shonibare was born in 1962 in the United Kingdom to Nigerian parents, who returned to Lagos with their children when he was three. When he was seventeen he relocated to London, where he currently lives and works. He studied at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and at the Byam Shaw School of Art, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts, London. His work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions and is in public and private collections throughout the world. In 2005 Shonibare was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire, MBE, a distinction he uses despite and because of its irony.
Highlights include Scramble for Africa (2003), in which the artist draws upon the moment in nineteenth-century expansionism when leading world powers carved up the continent of Africa at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85. Various statesmen, typically headless, are huddled around a table using a large map of Africa to stake their claims. In addition, Black Gold II is one of a series of paintings that explores themes of colonial domination and exploitation, in which multinational companies extract Africa's natural resources while its indigenous people live in poverty.
Yinka Shonibare MBE is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue published by Prestel.
Brooklyn Museum Website