Yinka Shonibare on Race, Globalism and Post-Colonialism

WASHINGTON, DC—A little headless mannequin is balancing on the world in the European galleries of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. “Girl on Globe 2” by Yinka Shonibare is rife with symbolism. According to the museum, “Fascinated by the culture of 18th century Europe and its aristocrats, Shonibare intends for his headless figures to evoke the beheading of the French aristocracy during the Revolution of 1789-99, as well as to serve as a reminder of our own capacity for mindlessness in contemporary life.”

Both English and Nigerian, Shonibare refers to himself as a “postcolonial hybrid.” Born in London to Nigerian parents, he moved to Lagos when he was 3 and as a teen attended boarding school in England. Today, he lives and works in the East End of London, where he creates art that reflects his diverse background and the realities of modern globalism. Further emphasizing the theme, “Girl on Globe 2” is outfitted in a period costume of Dutch wax fabric with West African and Indonesian patterns that Shonibare purchased from Brixton Market in London.

Acquired this year, “Girl on Globe 2” is a part of the Corcoran’s permanent collection.

All photos © Arts Observer

Detail of “Girl on Globe 2,” 2011 (fiberglass mannequin, Dutch wax-printed cotton, globe).

Installation view.

Rather than using a traditional globe, Shonibare chose a sphere with a red, orange and yellow heat map which, according to the museum, references climate change, the ecological legacy of global industrialism and, with the young mannequin balancing on it, the role today’s youth have on the future of the planet.

Detail of the Dutch wax-printed cotton used to make the dress for the sculpture.

Rear installation view.

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