You are here

Yinka Shonibare and the African influence on Modern Culture by Kome Eleyae


in time from the clothed of the Reverend and clothes worn today, and also the contrast in culture of a figure skating in the cold of Scotland wearing the vibrant clothes of Western Africa.

Another piece of his that is a meeting of the traditionally British and the colourful African cultures is Yinka’s Trafalgar square 4th plinth instalment ‘HMS Victory Returns to Trafalgar.’


This instalment on Trafalgar Square’s 4th Plinth was an enlarged ‘ship in the bottle’ of Lord Admiral Nelson’s HMS Victory. I think that this piece is amazing for several reasons. First, its scale is particularly striking as it confronts you with what is normally a domestic object found on shelves, fireplaces and windowsills, but in a larger than life form. Secondly, is how well it fits in with its backdrop. Surrounded by the limestone walls of great British buildings including the National Gallery, and also next to Nelson’s column which is also dedicated to Lord Admiral Nelson, it creates a really British feel.

It is almost as if Trafalgar Square is Lord Nelson’s eternal quarters and he is with his ship and at rest. Lastly again is the culture clash between the British and the African. Even with the highly British feel that this piece creates, the Dutch wax print (African style print) sails give it a modern twist, perhaps showing the multicultural nature of the British demographic and how now it is not just the white Englishman who is part of British History.

To conclude, Yinka is a great inspiration to me and has had a great effect on my work. So much so that I have recently attempted to use  similar dutch wax materials in a modern parody of the age old theological concept of ‘Memento Mori.’ I love the way that he uses the materials to make social comments and show his views on both past and present issues. I love the way he can link different times and worlds together by the use of effective compostion and colour. The achievement of accuracy, quality and beauty in his work is also a constant inspiriation to me as he works through a physical disability and still achieves the highest of standards with his artwork.  To me he shows that Africans are not stationary and lacking of initiative. In fact Yinka is the opposite and that knowledge gives me confidence not only as an Artist, but as an African to progress in design and not to be affected by the expectations that perhaps are assigned to me purely because of my race. And perhaps I could be part of a new black history that continues in the footsteps of Yinka, showing creativity, innovation and progress.