About the Exhibit - Earth Kids
Yinka Shonibare CBE’s exhibit, Earth Kids, at James Cohan Gallery’s East Village location, is on view from December 4th through January 23rd, 2021.
Early on in his life, Shonibare received continual feedback that he should be creating ‘authentic African art’ due to his African origin (he lived in Nigeria for many years). He’s been inspired by similar challenges that females artists like Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger faced, that by based on a factor such as race, or in their case sex, they were ‘supposed’ to create a certain type of art.
They [challenged these preconceptions] by “moving beyond conventional materials’ – as in Kruger’s photo-collages or Holzer’s LEDs. ‘I realized then that I didn’t have to be painting on canvas to be an artist. Painting is so historically loaded, anyway – it’s like a sign of white male dominance.” - Yinka Shonibare CBE (source)
Yinka Shonibare CBE plays on the preconceptions that he’s supposed to create ‘African’ art by using "African" fabric (Dutch wax-printed cotton).
These fabrics are significant because their origin is Indonesian, they were mass-produced by the Dutch and “sold in vast quantities across Africa.” So they’re not authentically African as many believe. This is representative of how Yinka Shonibare CBE views culture, as “an artificial construct."
In the exhibit, Earth Kids, Shonibare features four sculptures wearing clothes with this signature ‘African’ fabric
They are meant to “champion the next generation of environmentalists fighting for climate justice—including young activists, such as Greta Thunberg—who have thrown a spotlight on the failings of previous generations of policymakers.” (source)
"The most important thing I do with the fabric is that I then make Victorian costumes out of it. I link history to the present. The high point of the colonial period in Africa is the Victorian era. That is why those kids are wearing Victorian costumes." - Yinka Shonibare CBE (source)
"I use kids in a lot of my works because I see children as a symbol of hope and a symbol of hope for the future particularly when we're talking about the planet. Many of us have enjoyed the wealth created by industrialization, but in a sense we've had our time and we do need to start looking to the future and we need to start looking at how we are going to leave the children a better planet.” - Yinka Shonibare CBE (source)
Video of the Exhibit
To see a walkthrough of the exhibit, skip ahead to 13:40 in the video below.
About the Artist - Yinka Shonibare CBE
Yinka Shonibare CBE is a British-Nigerian artist who lives and works in the UK. He studied Fine Art first at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and then received his MFA from Goldsmiths, University of London.
“His work explores cultural identity, colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalization. A hallmark of his art is the brightly coloured Ankara fabric he uses.” (source)
“He examines, in particular, the construction of identity and tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe and their respective economic and political histories.” (source)
Yinka Shonibare CBE is paralyzed on one side of his body, so he relies on assistants to carry out the creation of his works.
In 2021, Shonibare will launch a residency program for artists in Nigeria, titled Guest Artists Space.