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Staging Display in the Sculptural Work of Yinka Shonibare MBE

  • Author(s): Wilder, Courtney Tanner
  • Advisor(s): Baker, Malcolm
  • et al.

The work of contemporary British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE is widely described as theatrical. This characteristic is especially present in the most well-known segment of his practice: his work in three dimensions, which often stages headless mannequins wearing copies of early modern costume in alternatively amusing, alluring, and disturbing tableaux vivantes. Shonibare's status as a self-described "post-colonial hybrid" manifests itself in the fabrics his figures are clothed in. The bold, colorful and undeniably vernacular Dutch wax- printed fabrics superimpose notions of Africa and colonialism onto notions of Europe, while simultaneously questioning the supposed authenticity of such notions. There has yet to be an in-depth study of the ways in which his works function as three-dimensional objects, in terms of the figures themselves as well as the enhanced and altered meanings their display in various types of spaces engenders. This thesis proposes such a study, using case studies set against a background of the theory that predominated at the time of Shonibare's artistic formation in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as well as the debates of that time surrounding the display of both national heritage and the material culture of the "Other."

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