FAI’s Amy Sherald was in Philadelphia for the opening of Yinka Shonibare MBE: Magic Ladders at the Barnes Foundation. A British artist of Nigerian descent, Shinobare is known internationally for his provocative sculptures—life-sized mannequins clothed in vivid Dutch wax print fabrics produced in Europe for the African market. Made into turn-of-the century European style clothing, the fabric becomes an element of the artist’s cultural commentary, remarking on how European colonialism affected both European and African identities.
The artist’s ironic perspective is evident in his professional title: MBE. In 2005, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Shinobare a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). He now uses the title to highlight the ambiguousness of status, identity, and belonging.