If you’ve ever wondered about how much information can be conveyed by textile pattern and design, all you need is one look at Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare’s textile-based works and you get it. They pack a wallop.
His best-known works are sculptural, and feature mannequins clothed in the costumes of the 18th century European aristocracy. However—the costumes—rather than being made from the velvets, silks, ribbons and lace one might expect; are constructed from fabrics inspired by Indonesian batiks—manufactured in Europe for the West African market—and closely associated today with African identity. These sculptures, like most of his works, explore colonialism, class, race and social justice.
A recent retrospective at Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art showcased works created over a period of 14 years, including sculptural works, photography, installation art, video works, and paintings. It’s a great place to start if you want to explore more of his work.