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The Most Influential Person On AIB This Week Is Yinka Shonibare


The Most Influential Person On AIB This Week Is Yinka Shonibare

Yinka Shonibare CBE, RA is a British-Nigerian artist. He was born in London, England, on August 9, 1962, to Olatunji Shonibare and Laide Shonibare. His family relocated to Lagos, Nigeria, when he was three years old, where his father practiced law. Shonibare returned to Britain at 17 to complete his A-levels at Redrice School. He contracted transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord, when he was 18 years old, resulting in a long-term physical handicap on one side of his body.

Shonibare continued his studies in fine art, first at the Byam Shaw School of Art (now Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design), and then at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he earned his MFA and graduated as a member of the Young British Artists generation. After completing his studies, Shonibare worked at Shape Arts, a company that makes arts accessible to individuals with disabilities, as an arts development officer.

Through a variety of media, such as painting, sculpture, photography, installation art, and, more recently, video and performance, Shonibare’s work addresses concerns of colonialism in addition to those of race and class. He focuses on the complex interrelationships between Africa and Europe, as well as their contrasting political and economic histories, and the development of identity in both contexts. He explores the nature of our current collective identity by drawing on Western art history and literature. Following his self-description as a “post-colonial” hybrid, Shonibare queries the significance of cultural and racial categorizations. He draws inspiration from all across the world, even though he frequently creates art motivated by his own life and the experiences of others around him. As he has stated, “I’m a citizen of the world, I watch television so I make work about these things.

His use of brilliantly colored Ankara fabric is a signature of his work. Shonibare employs artists who assist him to create works under his direction due to a physical disability that paralyzes one side of his body.

Shonibare is well known for producing life-size, headless sculptures that are carefully positioned and covered in vivid wax cloth patterns to make history and racial identity confusing and challenging to interpret. He has exhibited at the Venice Biennial as well as leading museums across the world.

In 1999, Shonibare made four alien-like sculptures titled “Dysfunctional Family”. The piece consists of a mother and daughter textured in white and blue, and a father and son textured in red and yellow. One of Shonibare’s “Wind Sculpture” works was put in front of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art (NMAA) in Washington, DC on December 3, 2016. The “Wind Sculpture VII” painted fiberglass work is the first to be permanently displayed outside the NMAA’s entrance.

In 2002, Okwui Enwezor commissioned him for his most well-known work, Gallantry and Criminal Conversation, which put him into the international arena.

His significant mid-career survey began in September 2008 at the MCA Sydney and moved to the Brooklyn Museum in New York in June 2009 and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art in Washington DC in October 2009.

In 2004, he was nominated for the Turner Prize for his Double Dutch exhibition at Rotterdam’s Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and his solo show at London’s Stephen Friedman Gallery. He appeared to be the most popular of the four candidates with the general public that year, with a BBC internet poll revealing that 64% of voters said his work was their favorite.

Shonibare was named an Honorary Fellow of Goldsmiths’ College in 2003, an MBE in 2004, an Honorary Doctorate (Fine Artist) of the Royal College of Art in 2010, and a CBE in 2019.] In 2013, he was named a Royal Academician by the Royal Academy of Arts. He became a member of Iniva’s Board of Trustees in 2009.

Shonibare’s handicap has worsened with age, necessitating the use of an electric wheelchair. Shonibare has spoken about his disability and its importance in his work as a creative artist in the past. Shonibare was named patron of Shape Arts’ annual “Open” show in 2013, where disabled and non-disabled artists are asked to contribute work in response to an Open theme.

He presently operates Guest Projects, a project space for new artists in east London’s Broadway Market. He is expanding this to include areas in Lagos, Nigeria.

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