Yinka Shonibare, a British contemporary visual artist of Nigerian origin, was the fifth highest rated artist according to the 2014 report on the contemporary African art market. With quite singular physical characteristics, he managed to rise to the top of his art in the fields of painting, sculpture, photography and many other fields. Ze-africanews immerses you in the life of a courageous man who knew how to realize his dream despite his physical handicap.
From birth to art
Born in London in 1962, Yinka Shonibare MBE (Member of the British Empire ) is renowned in the African continent for its high quality artistic productions. An African star in the visual arts in London, Yinka Shonibare can only move in a wheelchair but he proudly claims his physical disability as an integral part of his identity. Known throughout the world for his extremely lively and dynamic works with a certain dose of humour, Yinka Shonibare takes up the classics of the history of Western art but now seeking to «africanize», all drawn from a vast arc-wax printed in-sky. Very attached to these fabrics, symbols of his belonging to the African continent, the artist likes to play with borders. Its auction sales reached $285,000 in 2014.
His parents and physical disability
Yinka Shonibare did not experience great financial difficulties in her lifetime. His father is a lawyer, his brothers and sisters are in the health care field as surgeons and dentists. It was when he was 3 years old that his family returned to live in Lagos, Nigeria. Yinka returned to Great Britain 13 years later, at the age of 16, to pass her baccalaureate. He stayed there and then studied art at the prestigious Byam Shaw College of Art, which today becomes the “Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design”. That’s when his life changes at the age of 17. He contracted Transverse Myelitis, a neurological syndrome caused by inflammation of the spinal cord, which will leave him disabled for life.
Strong presence of Africa in his works
In her works, Yinka Shonibare begins to focus on identity issues when she is suggested to express more of her roots in her work. Then, in the early 1990s, he began to introduce wax fabric into the Victorian universe and dressed the bourgeoisie represented in his works by headless mannequins. In his installation Victorian Philanthropists Parlour between 1996 and 1997, presented at the exhibition Africa Remix in 2005 at the Centre Pompidou in the French capital, he reproduces identical period interiors and furniture, upholstered with African fabric, To understand the colonization that was the basis of the English bourgeoisie. In almost all of his works, the central theme revolves around colonization and its impact on the lives of Africans and on the European reality. A tragic relationship between the two yet interdependent cultures.Yinka Shonibare thus tries to show, through painting, sculpture, photography and, more recently, films and performances, that this opulence and this standard of living of Europeans is largely the work of African slaves. This is why he sees in this strong link between colonized and colonizing countries an eternal historical dimension and a continuous intermingling between two cultures.
The distinction received
In 2004, Yinka Shonibare received for his didactic and original works the highest British distinction, the MBE “Member of the British Empire.” Henceforth, he preferred to transform his name into Yinka Shonibare MBE.