The Face

The Face

Art & vegetables in Lagos with Yinka Shonibare
Photography: Alex Majoli

We meet Yinka Shonibare CBE in his East London studio, which is all creaking wooden floors and creative calm – no doubt enforced by the 57-year-old himself, who speaks with a certainty that comes with sustained success. His art is dotted around the room, including a miniature version of his most famous creation, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle. The large-scale piece saw him become the first black artist to have his work displayed on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth, an opportunity he used to look at Britain’s colonial history in a sly and arresting way and, by placement alone, force the general public to do the same.

The British-Nigerian artist was born in London but moved to Lagos aged three, returning to England to study fine art at Goldsmiths. It’s this Afropolitan upbringing that provides Shonibare with a unique take on British colonialism and the relationship between Europe and Africa. But his current project isn’t an artwork in itself – it’s far bigger. He’s creating a Nigeria-based Guest Artists Space (G.A.S.) Foundation, which will see him dropping the ladder down for the next generation of artists… 

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