Thursday, May 10, 2012

Artists: Yinka Shonibare, MBE

Fact: Art is my passion. And a huge part of being an artist is studying other artists and understanding the history you come from. I'd like to start sharing work by some of the artists that inspire me and have made an impact on my growth and development. First up, Yinka Shonibare, MBE. 

I first saw Yinka Shonibare's work at the Venice Biennale in 2007. His piece stood out in my memory among the hundreds of artworks I saw there. That fall I took a Modern and Contemporary African Art History class at UCLA with Professor Steven Nelson, and I had the great opportunity and pleasure of learning more about Shonibare's work. 

Shonibare creates elaborate Victorian clothing from what is recognized as African prints. These cloths were originally made in Holland and sold to colonies in Africa. This cloth made in Europe is worn by millions of Africans and is intended to signify an indigenous identity. This brings up questions of authenticity and acknowledges the elaborate history of the cloth itself. Is identity a construction? Many of the figures are also depersonalized (often headless or covered in cloth) and we are left with the material as a primary signifier. 

His works are so beautifully constructed yet so charged with questions of identity and politics as well. I think that's why I am initially drawn to his work- it's stimulates both the mind and the eye.

All images via the artist's website. You can view it here

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