Thursday, November 19, 2009
Colorful Prints and Fancy Cloth
But can kids get it? Yinka Shonibare was announced last year as an upcoming exhibition at NMAfA. I’ve been thinking about this exhibit ever since visiting the installation at the Brooklyn Museum. Shonibare was one of the major artists that I included in my graduate university seminar, Issues in Contemporary African Art, when I taught at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC). His work speaks on many levels, and as an Education Specialist for Youth & Public School programs, I now had to find a way to present his work to young audiences. Shonibare’s art brings adult and societal themes to the fore: social class, colonialism, aristocratic sexual abandon, race and identity through irony, puns, satire and paradox. How to help children find a way into some of these themes presented a challenge.
We created an education area off the main gallery which included a video screen with photos of selected objects in the exhibit and details of fabric panels….colorful and luxurious surfaces abound…a large sample board was attached to the wall with hands-on textile panels that were sent directly from Yinka’s studio…a wall of hangers were mounted (hand-painted in Ghana with beautiful faces – see photo) on which we hung a variety of dresses and shirts made from contemporary factory cloth – this has been a big hit!; mirrors were installed so one can have the opportunity to cross (or appropriate?) cultural identity through dress…we all do it….one of Yinka’s themes. From previous exhibits we found that visitors enjoy sitting down! We have paper and pencils to create designs inspired by the Dutch wax prints that are in the exhibition, either chosen by Yinka or designed by him. So far, we have had great results (see photo)! More later…
Deborah Stokes, Education