This essay reviews Yinka Shonibare MBE’s exhibition Addio del passato, exploring themes of decay, dissipation, and death as expressed through the historical figure of Lord Nelson. Shonibare’s exhibition casts Nelson as a hapless metonym for the colonial urge, suggesting that both the man and his empire contained seeds of their own destruction, the tragic conflation of destiny and desire. Nelson’s victory marks the point of no return, the beginning of an era of imperial crime on a new scale. Shonibare retells the myth of Nelson’s victory as the West’s tragic moral demise, dead by its own hand, crazed by its desire for conquest.

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