Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- Wind Sculpture II is a 20-foot-tall fiberglass structure meant to look like a piece of Dutch wax print fabric blowing in the wind. It features interlocking yellow, blue, and orange diamonds over a dark blue grid pattern and turquoise bubbles. Its base is thin, giving the structure the illusion of weightlessness and flexibility.
- Originally a product in colonial Dutch Indonesia, the style of fabric was copied by the British and sold to West Africans. Dutch wax fabric eventually became a symbol of African identity despite being a colonial product conceived in the southeast corner of Asia.
- The type of fabric represented by Yinka Shonibare’s Wind Sculptures is a reference to the combination of cultural identities of the African diaspora (pronounced die-as-por-uh). African diaspora is a term used to describe the worldwide dispersion of people from Africa as a result of the slave trade.
- In addition to using the Dutch wax cloth motif that comes from European colonial activities in Asia and Africa, the sculpture also evokes imagery of a sail on a boat at sea and may represent the exchange of people, goods, and ideas that occurred during diasporic migration. By using this symbol of migration, Shonibare condemns colonialism (when a powerful, richer country takes control of a smaller, less powerful region) and celebrates global diversity.
Known for his figurative works that use brightly patterned fabric to explore cultural identity, Yinka Shonibare, CBE (born in London to Nigerian parents) here transforms a wisp of cloth into a monumental sculpture. In reference to his use of distinctive textile patterns in all of his work, including his recent Wind Sculptures, Shonibare has said:
“None of us have isolated identities anymore, and that’s a factor of globalization. I suppose I’m a direct product of that. The fabrics I use also look like they could be just African, because they are used a lot there. But what you see on the surface is not really what you always get. The fabric has a complicated history in its trade routes: It was originally designed as an Indonesian fabric, produced by the Dutch, and the British sold it into the African market. It’s a perfect metaphor for multilayered identities. In a way, my sculptures produce this volume. It’s most apparent in Wind Sculptures, which capture the wind to produce something tangible out of the intangible. The shape of the sails capture a moment, like how the headless sculptures portray a larger historical moment. The difference between them is that something as insignificant as a breeze is turned into something monumental, while a historical time period is made universally ambivalent. That’s significant. Ultimately, I’m trying to grasp living with more than one culture in my head.*”
*As quoted in “500 Words: Yinka Shonibare MBE,” Artforum (April 9, 2013) at artforum.com.
tags: culture, environment, force, identity, movement, perception
Resources for Teachers: