Yinka Shonibare Mbe, A Series

In recognition of Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare Mbe, who has two exhibits up in the U.S. – one at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the other at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, I’ll be doing a series on Shonibare and his art. In an earlier post I linked to the National Museum of African Art’s foray into using social media and blogging to introduce the public to their exhibitions.

Tonight the National Museum of African Art hosted a very elegant and extremely well attended opening reception for the show. The opening was convened by the new Director of the museum, Dr. Johnetta B. Cole, and co-hosted by Dr. Camille Cosby, and Her Excellency the First lady of Nigeria Hajiya Turai Umaru Yar’ Adua. Guests included Lonnie Bunch the Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as the Deputy Director of that museum Kinshasha Holman Conwill.

The artist, Yinka Shonibare Mbe, spoke briefly about the importance of challenging normativity and the great power of art; particularly in art’s power to directly confront, engage, and deconstruct concepts of race. He also joked gamely about being good at art bringing “ladies.” The event went smoothly until one of the guests passed out from the heat. Shonibare was unperturbed, pausing considerately until the situation was handled, and then continuing on graciously.

I’ll post pictures and additional thoughts as Part II of this series. I imagine that I’ll write 5 parts to the series, discussing Shonibare’s exhibit in Washington, DC; the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum; Shonibare’s positioning in the art field; the role of identity in his work; and Shonibare’s own unique perspective based on his global citizenship, race, gender, and ability – which I am particularly interested in exploring as it impacts how his art his produced.

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