Yinka Shonibare’s Wind Sculpture Excites in Lagos


Mary Ekah
It was a sight of awe and excitement for residents and visitors in Lagos as erudite and wide ranging, London-born physically challenged Nigerian artist, Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA), flagged off his “Wind Sculpture IV” exhibition with a six metre high by three metre wide artwork, penultimate Thursday, at the Ndubuisi Kanu Park, Ikeja, Lagos.

The Wind Sculpture VI, made from fibreglass and steel by the London-born Nigerian artist, Shonibare as part of his artistic inquiry into the motion of wind as it passes through fabric. This is the first time that his work has gone on public display in Nigeria. It is actually the first solo presentation in Nigeria by the artist, who was born in London and moved to Lagos as a child. The UK-based artist, who travelled all the way to Nigeria for the unveiling of the sculpture, gave a talk to students and attended a screening of a selection of his film works at the venue of the installation.

“It is particularly exciting to be showing my art in Nigeria, the country of my childhood. It gives me great pleasure to be launching my first exhibition in Nigeria in the context of a British/Nigerian cultural exchange. The importance of such an exchange can never be underestimated as it forms the basis for our mutual peace and prosperity through art. Through my art, I am not afraid to explore new ideas and new ways of doing things, I challenge, provoke and entertain in equal measure,” Shonibare said.

Speaking on the display of his work, Shonibare noted that his interest in art started while he was growing up in Nigeria. “If there is a museum in Lagos, for example, it will create massive employment opportunities for people especially in the art, culture and tourism sector. There is a need to regenerate the art scene in Lagos,” he said while calling on Nigerians to support art and artists, adding that Nigeria is culturally dynamic and diverse with a lot of untapped talents that can contribute to national development.

With his Wind Sculptures series, the artist has captured a moment in time where wind passes through his signature Dutch wax batik fabrics on a dramatically grand scale. These six metres high sculptures appear to be an ephemeral billowing form but are actually rendered in steel and fibreglass. The organic concaved and convexed shapes formed by nature are mirrored in the patterns, which replicate traditional ‘African’ fabrics. There is a different pattern and palette for each sculpture in the series that are hand painted onto the surface with bright colours. All of the these elements together lend the work a magical and poetic quality that deliberately plays on initial perceptions, frames of reference, a thread running throughout Shonibare’s practice. The installation of Wind Sculpture VI forms part of a series of important large-scale works that marked a new departure for Shonibare by working in fibreglass and steel.

Using these materials, Shonibare investigates the shifting movement of wind passing through fabric and encapsulates the sheer, three-dimensional volume of wind. Deputy British High Commissioner, Simon Shercliff, at the flag off of the exhibition said, “This amazing, beautiful, provocative sculpture, Wind Sculpture VI, is going to be on display in this park for the next three months. We hope that this park is going to be the venue of events, workshops, gatherings and public events and that the artwork here will inspire people and encourage art discussion and debates.”

The exhibition, Shercliff, reiterated is part of the UK-Nigeria art season, which has been on for over a year now, and it is coming to a culmination. “The art season is designed to create opportunity for people in the UK and Nigeria to mix and collaborate. And also get better as a result. This art displayed today is a great example of the reason for the UK-Nigeria art season,” he noted.

Sponsored by the British Council in collaboration with GTBank, the Wind Sculpture artwork will remain on display at the Ndubuisi Kanu Park, Ikeja, Lagos till 17 January, 2017as part of British Council’s UK/Nigeria 2015–16 season, which aims to build new audiences, create new collaborations and strengthen relationships between Nigeria and Britain.