Invitation: University Seminar on Contemporary Africa @ Columbia University: Nov. 6
Please come if you are in the area, to my talk this Thursday:
Title: "Yinka Shonibare and the Other Victorians"
Date/Time: November 6, 2014 -6:00pm - 8:00pm
Location: Columbia Faculty House, Columbia University, New York
64 Morningside Drive • New York, New York 10027
In this reading of the work of the Nigerian-British artist Yinka Shonibare—known for his “Victorian” figures dressed in “African print” fabrics—I suggest that his colorful paintings, sculptures and installations provide us a postcolonial view of the present and the past in which the self and its other are uncomfortably and perpetually imbricated. Ostensibly developed in response to Thatcherite anti-immigrant policies of the 1980s Britain, his work is often seen as a critique of Victorian, colonial England and post-imperial Europe. I propose that Shonibare’s Victorian imagery equally allows him to dispute prevailing ideas about black diasporic subjectivity in postcolonial Britain by identifying with his own aristocratic heritage that goes back to 19th-century, Victorian Lagos. By figuring the “other Victorians” Shonibare troubles what might seem like settled history. His work is thus a confounding critical meditation on the meaning of selfhood and otherness, as well as a simultaneous embrace and confrontation of the paradoxes of Britain’s and Africa’s colonial and postcolonial condition. Like the utterances and acts of Esu, the Yoruba trickster deity and great dissembler, Shonibare’s work suspends certainty, revels in the art of the doublespeak, and testifies to the complex, fraught trajectories and dimensions of history, culture and artistic identity.
* The University Seminar on Contemporary Africa organized by Professors Hlonipha Mokoena and Abosede George.