Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Shonibare's Exhibit

smilewithsh's picture



            What an experience of our Friday to get to the Barnes Foundation. It was completely worth the minor setbacks because we did eventually get to Yinka Shonibare’s Magic Ladders exhibit. I was completely enthralled. I walked into the exhibit and upon looking at the brightly colored fabric, I immediately thought of the tablecloths from the night before in Haffner for the Black History Month dinner.  I walk up closer to one of the pieces and read the description. “Dutch wax printed cotton.” I continued to walk around and observe each piece as I was wrapping my head around what I was seeing vs. what I was reading. I thought about why is it I automatically assumed that these brightly colored fabrics were native to Africa. I didn’t even stop to question it’s authenticity. Ava mentioned how they were actually brought over to clothe people. On the Barnes Foundation website, it’s noted that Shonibare “creates work that cites the artistic and intellectual history of Europe.” And the Dutch wax fabric “associated” with Africa “offer a dramatic, playful, irreverent examina­tion of identity, history, and politics.”  If anything, this made me think about my postcolonial literature class something Anne pointed out as well. I started to think about why I automatically assumed that those fabrics were native to Africa. I started to think about what process it had to go through for a general assumption like that to be made. I started to think about the European influences that shaped other places. The way I experienced Shonibare’s work made me think a lot, because it was so aesthetically pleasing to the eyes, I was drawn to the bright colors and the globes as the head on the children mannequins, but also because I wanted to know why Shonibare still used fabrics that were essentially the product of colonization.