Boy on Globe 4 (2011)
Commissioned by the Whitworth for the COTTON: Global Threads exhibition Boy on Globe 4 (2011) is a life size, headless boy balanced precariously atop a suspended globe. The child is dressed in Victorian period costume fashioned from Dutch wax batik prints. Synonymous with Shonibare’s work, wax batik fabric is commonly used in African dress, but actually has a complex and culturally diverse history.
Familiar planes are eroding as a new global force, based on consumption, forms and alters our perceptions.
Industrially produced imitations of Javanese batiks, Dutch wax batiks were originally intended for the Indonesian market but found a more enthusiastic reception in West Africa, where they became, effectively, signifiers of African identity during the break up of Colonial rule. The trade routes that both produced and consumed the fabric are used by Shonibare to mine the complex production of identity and power in the post-colonial period.
This sculpture is from a recent body of work exploring climate change. The unfamiliar range of colours that are applied to the globe represent an infrared heat map of areas in which climate change is making a profound impact. Playfully balancing on top of the globe, the boy suggests equilibrium in the world’s geography. Familiar planes are eroding as a new global force, based on consumption, forms and alters our perceptions.
Yinka Shonibare, MBE (born 1962) is a British-Nigerian artist living in London. Since the 1990s he has exhibited his films, photographs, paintings and sculptural tableaux internationally at leading museums worldwide, including the Venice Biennale in 2001, and Documenta 11, Kassel, in 2002. In 2004 he was nominated for the Turner Prize and was awarded the MBE. Most recently Shonibare’s work, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, was the 2010 Fourth Plinth Commission for Trafalgar Square. It was the first commission by a black British artist and is currently part of a national fundraising campaign, organised by the Art Fund and the National Maritime Museum, to acquire the artwork permanently for the museum in Greenwich.
Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery.