London-based artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE (British, b. 1962) was born in England, but raised in Lagos in the wake of Nigeria’s independence. Influenced by his personal experiences in a newly liberated nation and its former colonial ruler, the artist calls himself a “postcolonial hybrid.” Yet his wide-ranging works—including photography, sculpture, film, installation, and performance—explore and question, more universally, the construction of cultural and national identity in a globalized society.

Shonibare’s MCA Plaza installation includes three sculptures from his new Wind Series. Nearly twenty feet high, each sculpture's vibrant patterns are taken from Dutch wax fabrics—or “African” batik. Although these colorful fabrics have become a sign of cultural pride and identity for Africans, they are a colonial invention, having been mass-produced in Southeast Asia, and exported by the Netherlands since the mid-nineteenth century. Capturing the movement of fabric blowing in the wind, the design of the sculptures was inspired by the sails of ships and exemplifies Shonibare’s belief that signs of national or ethnic identity are culturally constructed.

This exhibition is organized by Naomi Beckwith, Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator at the
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Music "Xin Nian Dao" by Stephanie Cheng Smith

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