End of Empire - 14-18 NOW
14-18 NOW / Programme / End of Empire
Yinka Shonibare CBE

End of Empire


Image credit: End of Empire (2016) by Yinka Shonibare CBE, installation view at Turner Contemporary. Photo by Stephen White

I’m interested in where people come from, I can’t be defined without the British-colonial experience of my birth and background. I don’t exist without it. My biggest preoccupation is with the idea of universal humanism. We all influence each other. Can you imagine Picasso without African art?

Yinka Shonibare, RA Magazine

In a new commission, Yinka Shonibare CBE, one of the leading artists at work in the UK, explored how the new alliances forged in the First World War changed British society forever and continue to affect us today.

Shonibare’s work featured two of his signature figures attired in African fabrics, their globe-heads highlighting the countries involved in WW1. Offering a metaphor for dialogue, balance and conflict, the entire work pivoted almost imperceptibly in the gallery space, symbolising the possibility of compromise and resolution between two opposing forces.

How has immigration contributed to the British culture in which we live today? How have immigrants shaped what it means to be British? These are the questions Shonibare asked in The British Library, a sculptural work presented alongside End of Empire at Turner Contemporary. Shelves of books, many bearing the name of an immigrant who has enriched our society (from TS Eliot to Zaha Hadid), reminded us that the displacement of communities by global war has consequences that inform our lives and attitudes today.

Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW and Turner Contemporary

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