Yinka Shonibare, MBE creates theatrical installations with powerful allegorical content that point toward, and sometimes poignantly invert, the effects of colonial relations. By examining Africa and Europe's sociopolitical and economic histories, he embraces the ambiguity of the postcolonial condition and questions presumed national and cultural definitions. For this occasion, Shonibare has created hundreds of kites of different sizes and colors that will be hanging in trees along the river Rhine as if escaping towards the sky. The kites are fabricated with a distinctive Dutch wax cloth. Although originally produced in Europe, the patterns are Javanese and mostly associated with West Africa; thus the fabric speaks to a complex history of labor, commerce, and assumed cultural value. Flying above the river, the kites produce a highly poetic yet paradoxical scene. The kite, while seemingly a straightforward symbol of emancipation, is still tethered by delicate strings, as if suggesting the attachment to European grounds by invisible forces.
Shonibare was born in 1962 in London, where he lives and works.
Yinka Shonibare, MBE
500 Kites, 2011
Mixed media installation
Stephen Friedman Gallery | London