British Deputy high Commission, Simon Shercliff (left) Director programs British Council, Louisa Waddingham; Director Visual Art British Council, Emma Dexter; representative of MD GTB Bank Babajide Sipe and the exhibiting artist, Yinka Shonibare MBE, during the exhibition in Lagos. PHOTO BY: AYODELE ADENIRAN
When Nigerian-British artist, Yinka Shonibare (MBE) opened his exhibition, the ‘clique’ character in Lagos and Victoria Island art community shed its arrogant weight and moved to Ikeja, an unusual axis for art events. The occasion was a Lagos, Nigeria stopover for world tour exhibition of Shonibare’s Wind Sculpture VI.
Shonibare, one of African Diaspora’s biggest art exports to the world has been touring cities with his new public space work, Wind Sculpture series since 2014. Currently, the sculpture, a six metre high, is on display at Ndubuisi Kanu Park, Ikeja, Lagos, till January 2017.
In 2013, two editions of the work were exhibited at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, England, and also at Cannonball Paradise, Gerisch Stiftung, Neumunster, Germany in 2014. The Wind Sculpture series, which investigates the curious link between art and science within the context of sailing in the wind and relation to fabric, clearly, finds a spacious air to breathe at Ndubuisi Kanu park. The space confirms a right choice of venue compared to the Islands part of the city where high rise buildings would have swallowed its aesthetics. The colourful sculpture, which perhaps fits into the colour-conscious art taste of Lagos aficionados, stresses the artist’s signature in extensive application of Dutch wax, a fabric widely used by people of West Africans. But the fabric patterns were hand-painted, a deviation from direct application of textile as seen in the artist’s past works.
However, the sculpture, again, asserts Shonibare’s mastery of public space art. After his widely accepted and publicised Nelson’s Ship In A Bottle sculpture – mounted at Trafalgar Square, London – Shonibare’s image in the public space art sphere soared. The sculpture, a historical revisit of nineteenth century British warship, which recorded significant part in the battle of Trafalgar, was later acquired by UK’s Maritime Museum.
“E ku ijoko o,” Shonibare greets the audience in Yoruba language as he prepares to share his thoughts during the opening at Ndubuisi Kanu Park. He recalls his first major visit to Nigeria in 2010, courtesy of Bisi Silva-led Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Lagos. Again, he shares his well-documented story of how Lagos, particularly, the National Museum, at Onikan, contributed to his passion in loving art as a teenager. In London for nearly 40 years, his adventure as a pronounced contemporary artist, has generated quite a number of rewards, including “four honourary doctorate degrees and my work at National Maritime Museum.”
For his second visit with the Wind Sculpture VI, Shonibare thanks British Council and GTBank for their supports. Interestingly, GTB has been consistent in supporting the artist: Nelson’s Ship In A Bottle was actually sponsored by the bank. For Wind Sculpture VI, the camaraderie continues as the bank, in partnership with British Council promoted the exhibition in Lagos.
His visit to Lagos in 2011, he insists, has played a great part in in a resolve to contribute to the growing energetic art space of the city. And in clear terms, what is he contributing to Lagos art environment? “Contemporary art museum,” he discloses shortly before the official opening of Wind Sculpture VI. A land, he states, has been acquired already in Lekki for the proposed-museum. Shonibare describes Lagos as “culturally dynamic,” but laments that the potential of the city has not been fully implored. “There are powerful people in Nigeria who can build such museum,” he argues. And while commending the passion of Nigerians in collecting art, Shonibare warns that “we need a space to preserve our collections.”
In 2011, during his visit to Lagos, Shonibaare had expressed hope of making his experience count on the Nigerian art environment. After he was commissioned to do the Trafalgar Square work, he hoped to make that experience relevant in his native Nigerian space. “That is the scale of my ambition in Nigeria, among other projects I like to do here,” he told me during a chat early 2011.
As one of the Young British Artists (YBA) from the revered Goldsmith College, )Shonibare started establishing his art with several outings in the mid 1990s, which brought him to limelight, and extended his career with the famous installation, Gallantry and Criminal Conversation, Documenta 11 (2002) as well as Africa Remix and Bicentenary group art exhibition held in London in 2007,
Shonibare, 54, was born in London and moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three. For his art, he returned to study Fine Art at Byam Shaw College of Art and later at Goldsmiths College, for his MFA.