Travel & See: Black Diaspora Art Practices since the 1980s
Kobena Mercer is Professor of History of Art and African American Studies at Yale University. He is author of Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies, editor of Cosmopolitan Modernisms, among other titles, and an inaugural recipient of the 2006 Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing.
Art That Is Ethnic in Inverted Commas: Yinka Shonibare
This interview-based introduction to installation art by Nigerian-British artist Yinka Shonibare highlights the history of cross-cultural translation woven into the very fabric of his signature material, Dutch wax print cloth. Originating in East Asian batik, which was copied by Dutch colonials then exported to markets in West and Central Africa, such textiles are misperceived as authentically “African,” yet the global circuits in which the fabric travels reveal that it does not carry one unitary meaning but instead acquires multiple inflections as it moves through different local cultural contexts. In his description of himself as a “postcolonial hybrid,” Shonibare’s playful tone registers a contrast with earlier practices in the critique of race and representation, although by remaking colonial-era garments such as the Victorian bustle with the fabric, he extends critical inquiry into cross-cultural entanglement among diverse identities brought into contact by hybrid modernity.