19 February 2010

Shonibare exhibit at Museum of African Art

While in Washington, DC, a couple of days ago, I visited my favourite museum – the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. It's particularly appealing in the summer, as it sees very few visitors in comparison to the Air and Space, Natural History and other museums on the Mall. I have ample space and time (and quiet) to take in the exhibits and, more often than not, make off with a cheap poster, a pair of which now frame my living room.

Since I last visited quite recently, there was only one new exhibit: Yinka Shonibare MBE. It was a retrospective of his work, and I found it very interesting, and fun too.

I like the connections Shonibare made to a triangle trade of sorts with the Dutch wax, which undercut African textile makers. A recent Economist article explained that imported Chinese textiles cost 1/3 the price of comparable domestically produced fabrics in Angola.

I also enjoyed Shonibare's view of the Enlightenment creating a justification for colonialism - bringing wisdom to ignorant peoples. So his conclusion was that the age of reason served as a rationale for subjugating others.

The exhibit was very accessible - good explanations, including some video of Shonibare describing his art and motivation. It's on until March 7, 2010, and I strongly recommend that you visit it if you happen to be in DC!