The image that frames this blog is a detail photograph of an artwork called ‘The British Library’ by artist Yinka Shonibare, from 2014. Yinka Shonibare is a British and Nigerian artist who has worked throughout his career to explore issues related to colonialism and migration, partly through the sculptural use of a type of fabric known as Dutch wax print fabric, which is associated with the colonial trading relationships established between Holland, Indonesia and the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Normally used for clothing worn by women in many countries in west and central Africa, the fabric is actually produced for the export trade in Holland and the UK. In this work, Shonibare used the fabric to cover 2700 books whose spines are printed in gold leaf with the names of first and second generation migrants to England, the names of opponents to migration, and some which are left untitled. The work is associated with Brighton because it was commissioned by HOUSE 2014 and the Brighton Festival, and was first shown in the Brighton Museum in the Old Reference Library (now its MuseumLab). The work has been acquired by the Tate Gallery. Other well-known works by Shonibare include ‘Nelson’s Ship in A Bottle’ which occupied the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2010, and ‘Diary of A Victorian Dandy’ (1998), in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Lara Perry, Deputy Head, School of Humanities