Yinka ShonibareHe was born in London and at the age of three he moved to Lagos, Nigeria, until the age of sixteen when he moved back to Britain. He is artist who implements African textiles with the look of a Victorian style. He joins the two cultures to remind them about the success they gained from the African people, that which they took from their heritage and culture. Yinka actually spent a lot of his time in a larger city of Africa and considers his African ideas to come from television. Lagos was a contemporary society, and this is where his experiences of American programs came into play. It wasn’t until he came back to Europe when his “blackness sent in”. It hadn’t really affected him until then.
He is criticized for his work on two different levels. He is confronted about his art looking European and his skin color is black. Then he is confronted about why he doesn’t do just African art. As usual, he is confronted with stereotyping, something that everyone seems to do quite often and it is insulting. Why is it that he has to choose, he is an artist, freedom of expression is to be their forte.
Yinka told us of an incident from one of his tutors; “Well you’re African, aren’t you? Why aren’t you producing authentic traditional African art? And of course, given my background, the whole notion that I would understand the concept of some pure African authenticity, or for that matter that such an expression would be expected of me, I found utterly shocking, negating my engagement with modernism and modernization as well. So I decided to explore the notion of authenticity and what it might signify. That was when I realized that the idea of loyalty or allegiance is always imposed by others from the outside.” He now had to come to the realization that he had to face his “color” because society was now showing their assumptions of predictability. He was no longer a secret, his work was now out there for all to see and brings to life the controversy of his “blackness.”
This article’s strength was the controversy that it discusses and the answers that Yinka had to give. I would highly suggest that anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of Europe and Africa would significantly gain some insight from this reading.
Shonibare, Yinka. “Of Hedonism, Masquerade, Carnivalesque and Power.” In Looking Both Ways. Museum of African art, New York: 2003. Pp. 162-177.