Friday, April 13, 2012
From 2010 to February 2012, Yinka Shonibare's 1:30 scale model of Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson's famous ship, the HMS Victory, was on view in Londons Trafalgar Square. Shonibare's sculpture depicts the ship that won a decisive victory in the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), placed inside a giant glass bottle. The ship is complete with thirty-seven sails made from African-styled textiles, serving as a comment on the intertwined relationship between Great Britain and the African content, both in the nineteenth century and in the present day. Elsewhere in London, Sokari Douglas-Camp's beautiful transformation of a rusty bus serves as a living memorial etched with the powerful words of Nigerian activist Ken SaroWiwi. Douglas-Camp's sculpture forces viewers to think critically about the West's demand for oil from the Niger Delta and frames the current relationship as one rooted in the colonial past.
Finally, evocations of London and Nigeria adorn striking textiles designed by Emamoke Ukeleghe, as patterns of bright orange Big Bens, pink clouds, soaring airplanes, and geometric forms saturated in purple, yellow, and green create dazzling imaginary landscapes. Ukeleghe's textile designs shed light on the new culture of materialization and mass production of contemporary identity and memory in and of the Diaspora. Her works question the conventional and superficial perfecton of the authentic and reveal the complexity of Diasporic life.
This art historical study focuses on the work of these three contemporary Nigerian-British artists working in London, all of whom are highly engaged with identity and politics in the African Diaspora generally and the Nigerian Diaspora in the United Kingdom specifically. Focusing on the work of these three artists, this project will explore the ways in which art serves as a catalyst for awareness and political action in London's Nigerian Diaspora. The study will include research themes such as conflict, activism, post-colonialism., and identify presented through these specific case studies, but the final products will explore the ways in which these themes have broader ramifications in the global African Diaspora community, with a specific interest in reaching communities here in the Twin Cities.