Post-Colonial Fashion Featuring Shonibare





Post-Colonial Fashion Featuring Shonibare

Yinka Shonibare, MBE is a British-Nigerian artist that lives in London and explores cultural identity, colonialism and post-colonialism within globalization contemporary context. His work resonates with the post-colonial themes. He integrates the global history from a perspective of the people who were colonized. He uses brightly colored clothes as his hallmark or trademark to explore his themes. However, he uses different mediums to explore his themes that include painting, sculpture, photographs, films and installation arts (Skilbeck 2). Particularly, he examines how identity is constructed as well as the twisted relationship between Africans and Europeans that resulted from colonization. In this regard, he seeks to explore the meaning of culture and identity today after colonization especially at a national level where he seeks to define the identity of a nation.

His work further explores fashion in different ways using the brightly colored clothes that use fabrics from African fabrics but coming from Dutch waxed cotton. This means the fabric is not an authentically African (Rosenberg 3). However, he considers it a crossbreed of different cultural backgrounds. This he considers showing how he views culture. To explore fashion, he paints the clothes brightly and stretches them onto canvases with thick painting or makes them into Victorian dresses that are then dressed on sculptures of alien figures (Bouchard 107). In other occasions, he recreates some of the famous paintings and dresses them on dummies of famous people but with the fashion taking an Africanized style instead of using their original costumes. Some of these include “Mr. and Mrs. Andrews without Their Heads” (1998) at Gainsborough and “Reverend on Ice” 2005 (Simola 202).

With the Elizabethan fashion, he is able to explore the18th century culture during the time Europeans entered Europe for the first time. When he uses the African culture as well, dressed o white dummies he is able to depict globalization, where any fashion can be won in different parts of the world (Hemmings 4). With Africans dressing in the Elizabethan fashion, it is a depiction of colonialism effects where Africans adopted the European style. Globalization is depicted by the interaction of fashion between the different cultures from different regions. This was the result of colonialism, which shows the post-colonialism times. More so, the colonial era is further depicted by some of the headless mannequins where two men are firing cannonballs that were use during the colonial era.

On the other hand, the fashion has been used to depict the woman body and its role within fashion. In his arts with 18th century women, Shonibare depicts women as people who were supposed to work in similar fields to men such as science where a woman is shown drawing a map (McNeil 4). This shows that women had some respect at the time. Unlike the Swing Painting by Fragonard where the body of a woman is depicted for pleasure, Shonibare manages to show women as respected people within the society. In the swing painting, the woman is on a swing where an elderly man is pushing her while her young lover is on the opposite side hiding. As the woman goes up, she opens up her legs to allow the young man hiding to have a view up her skirt. On the other hand, Shonibare shows women engaging in work. However, the depiction of



Works Cited

Bouchard, Jen Westmoreland. “Representations of Diasporic Unbelonging: Surrealism in The Work Of Biyi Bandele-Thomas And Yinka Shonibare.”  Migrations & Identities 1.2 (2008), 99–114. Print.

Hemmings, Jessica. “Hybrid Sources: Depictions of Garments in Postcolonial Textile Art.” The Space Between Textiles, Art, Design, Fashion 2.1 (2004): 1-6. Print.

McNeil, Peter. The Uses of History: Reflections on a HERA FEM workshop – Rokokomania – connecting the past and the present. New York. NY: Routledge. Print.

Rosenberg, Karen. Fashions of a Postcolonial Provocateur. The New York Times Art Review. New York, NY: The New York Times. Print.

Simola, Raisa. “Notion of Hybridity in the Discourse of Some Contemporary West African Artists.” Nordic Journal of African Studies 16.2 (2007): 197–211. Print.

Skilbeck, Ruth. Colonial Forces. The Art Collector.  New York, NY: The Museum for African Art. Print.

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