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Yinka Shonibare CBE (RA) in "Transformation"

“My work, all along, has been a critique of Empire,” says Yinka Shonibare CBE (RA), adopting the honorific title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire, with willful irony, as part of his name. Shown in his London studio, Shonibare is working on his first series of drawings in twelve years, taking as his subject climate change. The artist is also on hand for the installation of a retrospective of sculptures—headless, “post-racial,” mannequins dressed in vibrant costumes—at the MCA Sydney.

Acting as the protagonist in two photographic series, Shonibare explores personal themes of leisure, excess, mortality, vanity and physical disability. The final work in the segment is a masked ballet that recounts the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden. “Power creates excess,” he asserts, while playfully admitting, “I also, actually, would like to have the trappings of wealth myself, even though I may be criticizing it.”

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Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Yinka Shonibare CBE (RA)

Known for using batik in costumed dioramas that explore race and colonialism, Yinka Shonibare CBE (RA) also employs painting, sculpture, photography, and film in work that disrupts and challenges our notions of cultural identity. Taking on the honorific CBE (and previously MBE) as part of his name in everyday use, Shonibare plays with the ambiguities and contradictions of his attitude toward the Establishment and its legacies of colonialism and class. In multimedia projects that reveal his passion for art history, literature, and philosophy, Shonibare provides a critical tour of Western civilization and its achievements and failures.

“My work, all along, has been a critique of Empire.”

Yinka Shonibare CBE (RA)

Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA)

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Yinka Shonibare CBE (RA)

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Yinka Shonibare CBE (RA)

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Yinka Shonibare CBE (RA)

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Welcome Guests

In this interview, conducted in October 2008 at Shonibare Studio in London, Yinka Shonibare CBE (RA) talks about his collaborative process, his vision for an artist’s residency and community (now called Guest Projects), and the meaning of failure.