Suspended States at the Serpentine Gallery

26.04.2024
Catherine Alfillé

Suspended States at the Serpentine Gallery

26.04.2024
Catherine Alfillé

After more than 20 years, artist Yinka Shonibare CBE returns to London with ‘Suspended States’, a dive into the complexities of cultural identity in a globalised world, exploring the lasting impacts of colonial power.

The British-Nigerian artist has been investigating power dynamics through art, history, and literature for thirty years. In the exhibition, the artist presents a fresh set of works that explore deeper meanings through sculptures, woodcuts, and textiles.

As you enter, you are greeted by the towering ‘Wind Sculpture’ adorned with Shonibare’s famous Dutch wax fabric. Inspired by his acclaimed 2010 Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle installation at Trafalgar Square, this artwork highlights Africa’s complex ties to colonial customs and ideologies.

I found ‘The War Library’ to be a very thought-provoking exhibit. The library contains 5,270 books that explore the stories of war and peace and reflect on the societal influences that have shaped history. Some of the books are intentionally left blank to symbolise the ongoing narrative that is yet to unfold. Shonibare intended to provoke contemplation on the themes of ‘human memory and amnesia’ by posing the question of whether we have truly learned from the lessons of history and applied them.

Ending with ‘Decolonised Structures’, which gathered quite the crowd, visitors can weave between scaled-down monuments reflective of those created to commemorate colonial figures in London, which are adorned with bright patterned Dutch wax, as if to change their history.

Shonibare’s emotive exhibition uses beautiful aesthetics to explore deeper topics and leaves the viewer with a lot to think about.

Suspended States at the Serpentine Gallery. Until 1 September