Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Textiles that Talk Back

Nigerian-British artist Yinka Shonibare stretches the skewed notions of cultural authenticity and class hegemony to the limit in his theory-as-performace art. Indonesian batik textiles, passed off as traditional African gear adorn headless Victorian figures. The patterns, the colours and the entire setting of the installation talk back to empire, as much as they comment on contemporary notions of race and ethnicity (that are in turn intersected, intertwined with class and gender). The visual presence of the figures is omnipotent, but their headlessness usurps them and lets the viewer stare and imagine without fear of rebuke. I am tempted to touch the fabrics, tactile things that they are. But I remain on the border - between the spaces of the maker and the tourist. The hyphen can be a thriving home for creativity and tenacity.

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