Through life-sized sculptures, artist Yinka Shonibare CBE considers the grasp of colonialism and its lasting effects on modern conceptions of identity. Each faceless figure is in the midst of an action, presented shooting a mass of cherry blossoms from a rifle, lumbering forward with a hefty mesh sack, or balancing a towering stack of cakes. Evocatively posed, the figures are topped with globes and astronaut helmets, which simultaneously gestures toward movement in the form of travel and exploration while obscuring individual identities.
Known for using patterned textiles across mediums, the British-Nigerian artist outfits his surreal sculptures with Batik fabrics, which have a history rooted in colonialism. Originally practiced in Southeast Asia, the wax-dyeing method was adopted by the Dutch, who commercially produced the patterned textiles and sold them to West African colonies. Since the 1960s, the vibrant fabric has come to signal African independence and identity.
To dive deeper into Shonibare’s artworks that explore identity, colonialism, and globalization, head to Artsy and Instagram.
“Woman Shooting Cherry Blossoms” (2019), unique fiberglass sculpture, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, bespoke hand-colored globe, steel, brass, zamak, wood, resin, and silk, 244 x 193 x 436 centimeters
“Refugee Astronaut (2015),” sculptures, fiberglass, printed cotton, net, wood, metal and plastic objects, and steel baseplate, 208 x 93 x 90 centimeters
“Girl Balancing Knowledge” (2015), fiberglass mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, books, globe, and steel baseplate, 179 x 139 x 89 centimeters
Left: “Butterfly Kid (Boy)” (2015), fiberglass mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, silk, metal, globe, leather, and steel baseplate, 127 x 75 x 88 centimeters. Right: “Planets in My Head, Music (French Horn)” (2019), fiberglass mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, French horn, globe, and steel baseplate, 137 × 55 × 51 centimeters
“Cake Man IV” (2015), fiberglass mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, pocketwatch, plaster, polystyrene, globe, leather and steel baseplate, 315 x 140 x 92 centimeters
“Planets in My Head (Trumpet Girl)” (2018), fiberglass mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, trumpet, globe, and steel baseplate, 160 x 69 x 50 centimeters