Learning more about artist Yinka Shonibare

I’ve come across the art of Yinka Shonibare before, in various places – art fairs, museums, etc. – but haven’t done a dive-in to learn more about the artist prior to now. I just saw a video that I wanted to share, which starts off with the installation of a sculpture at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., which reminded me that I saw this sculpture there when I was last in D.C. in 2019. My photo is here below, the piece is titled “Wind Sculpture VII,” 2016, and is made of steel with hand-painted fiberglass resin cast and gold leaf. The description provided by the museum is: “Like a ship’s sail, Wind Sculpture VII appears to blow in the wind. Its vibrant pattern refers to textiles based on Indonesian batiks, produced in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and closely tied to African identity.” You can see more on this specific piece here.

Yinka Shonibare Wind Sculpture at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art
Yinka Shonibare “Wind Sculpture VII” at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington D.C.

And now, on to the video – it’s an interview by PBS, and gives a great introduction to Yinka Shonibare and also features a lot of different art works of his. But there’s one point in the interview that grabbed my attention, around the 2 minute mark, Shonibare says that a teacher asked him about making “authentic African art,” and his reply was: “What’s authentic identity in a global, modern world?” His response is tied to his use of fabrics that are visually recognized as African fabrics, but he points out that he found them in London, and that they are originally batik patterns from Indonesia, which were brought by the Dutch to West Africa. Watch more here:

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