QUESTIONS: Yinka Shonibare MBE

The following questions can be used to spark conversation before, during, and after viewing the artist's film segment. They were compiled from our Educators' Guides and Screening Toolkits. We strongly encourage active viewing strategies that involve audiences in discussion in order to anticipate and set-up the ideas in the film, clarify content, or further the ideas while watching, and gives viewers the opportunity to process and re-consider their ideas after watching. Additional resources and strategies for teaching with films and working with contemporary art can be found in Teach.


"The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (Africa)," 2008. Type-C photograph mounted on aluminum, 72 x 49 1/2 inches. Edition 5/5. CB Collection, Tokyo, Japan. © Yinka Shonibare MBE. Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London .

Before Viewing
Discuss and define the words parody and mimicry. How do these terms relate to humor and satire? Discuss examples of parody and mimicry found in art history or contemporary culture. Why and how are they used in art?

How is beauty defined? Why might beauty be important to society and culture? In what ways are notions of beauty different within different cultures, and in what ways are they similar?


SEGMENT: Yinka Shonibare MBE in "Transformation"

While Viewing
Select works of art in which Shonibare uses beauty to introduce viewers to specific issues and themes. Identify which elements of beauty engage the viewer. How do they relate to the issues and themes that Shonibare presents?

Describe the figures in Shonibare's work, including their construction and clothing. Why did Shonibare present them this way? Describe the identities of the figures.


"Reverend on Ice," 2005. Life-size fiberglass mannequin, semi-opaque synthetic polymer resin, Dutch wax printed cotton, wool, leather, wood, and steel, 63 x 158 2/5 x 236 4/5 inches overall. Collection of National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Photo by Christopher Burke. © Yinka Shonibare MBE. Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.

After Viewing
Compare and contrast Shonibare's Diary of a Victorian Dandy with Hogarth's The Rake's Progress. How does each artist use parody, humor, and satire?

When referring to some drawings that he made in response to economical and social issues, Shonibare says that his work is about capturing the zeitgeist, the climate of the moment. What do you think he means? In what ways do the works Black Gold and Scramble for Africa address an historic or contemporary climate?


"Line Painting," 2003. Emulsion and acrylic on Dutch wax printed cotton, and painted wall, 122 4/5 inches diameter x 2 inches, 30 panels varying 11 4/5 inches, 15 7/10 inches, 23 3/5 inches diameters. Collection of Arts Council, London. Photo by Stephen White © Yinka Shonibare MBE. Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.

Describing the fabrics he uses in his sculptures, Shonibare says: "I like the fact that the fabrics are multilayered. They have this interesting history that goes back to Indonesia. And then they're appropriated by Africa and now represent African identities. Things are not always what they seem."

How might this statement change the viewer's understanding of the work? How does Shonibare play with appearances to challenge the audience's assumptions?