Yinka Shonibare, 1962–

Yinka Shonibare race class and cultural Identity,  1962 –





Yinka Shonibare is a British – Nigerian artist living in the United  kingdom. He has  become well known for his exploration of colonialism and postcolonialism within the contemporary context of globalization. Working in painting, sculpture, photography, film and performance, Shonibare’s work examines race, class and the construction of cultural identity through sharp political commentary of the tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe and their respective economic and political histories.


Yinka Shonibare,  The Age of Enlightenment, 2008

YinkaShonibare (1) National SeATING AND mOBILITY


Shonibare contracted transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord, at the age of 18, which resulted in a long-term physical disability where one side of his body is paralysed. He then went on to study fine arts. Following his studies studies, Shonibare worked as an arts development officer for Shape Arts, an organisation which makes arts accessible to disabled people.


“I do have a physical disability and I was determined that the scope of my creativity should not be restricted purely by my physicality. It would be like an architect choosing to build only what could be physically built by hand.” says Shonibare.  Shonibare readily acknowledges physical disability as part of his identity but creates work in which this is just one strand of a far richer weave.


Because of his disability, he is physically incapable of carrying out the making of the work himself, and relies upon a team of assistants to realise his artistic vision for him. In this context, conceptualism takes on a new angle. “That Shonibare became a conceptual artist who delegates much of the production of his labor-intensive projects to a network of other artists is partly a result of his disabling illness.”

Shonibare’s disability has increased with age; as his mobility has become further restricted with time, he has begun to use an Electric wheelchair,  In later life, Shonibare has become more open to discussing his disability and its role within his work as a creative artist.  In 2013, Shonibare was announced as patron of the annual Shape Arts “Open” exhibition where disabled and non-disabled artists are invited to submit work in response to an Open theme


Diary of a Victorian Dandy Series V&A


He was notably commissioned by  Okwui Enwezor at documenta XI in 2002 to create his most recognised work Gallantry and Criminal Conversation that launched him on an international stage.

shonibare-4-bINDING BREWERY

Yinka Shonibare, Gallantry and Criminal Conversation , 2002

Shonibare was nominated for a Turner prize in 2004, and was also awarded the decoration of member of the ‘Most Excellent Order Of The British Empire’ or MBE, a title he has added to his professional name. He has exhibited at the Venice Biennial and internationally at leading museums worldwide. In September 2008, his major mid-career survey commenced at the MCA Sydney and toured to the Brooklyn Museum, New York in June 2009 and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC in October 2009 .

Black Gold II Y S

“Black Gold II” (2006) by Yinka Shonibare.  White/James Cohan Gallery

In 2010, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle became his first public art commission.


Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare during its occupancy of the  Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square

Shonibare examines, in particular, the construction of identity and tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe and their respective economic and political histories. Mining Western art history and literature, he asks what constitutes our collective contemporary identity today. Having described himself as a ‘post-colonial’ hybrid, Shonibare questions the meaning of cultural and national definitions. People always took his work seriously and he said ” if love someone fight for them with your hands”

A key material in Shonibare’s work since 1994 is the brightly coloured “African” fabric (Dutch wax-printed cotton) that he buys himself from Brixton market in London. “But actually, the fabrics are not really authentically African the way people think,” says Shonibare. “They prove to have a crossbred cultural background quite of their own. And it’s the fallacy of that signification that I like. It’s the way I view culture – it’s an artificial construct.”


Yinka Shonibare The Swing (After Fragonard)  2001 is now part of the Tate Modern collection in London.


I know something about loveYinka Shonibare,  I  Know Something About Love, 2011





“How to Blow Up Two Heads at Once (Ladies),” a 2006 work by Yinka Shonibare with mannequins,


The Scramble for Africa 2003














Yinka Shonibare,  I  Know Something About Love, 2011





“How to Blow Up Two Heads at Once (Ladies),” a 2006 work by Yinka Shonibare with mannequins,










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