Yinka Shonibare CBE

London, UK
1962

Yinka Shonibare CBE was born in 1962 in London and moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three. He now lives and works in London.

Shonibare’s work explores issues of race and class through the media of painting, sculpture, photography and film. Having described himself as a ‘post-colonial’ hybrid, Shonibare questions the meaning of cultural and national definitions. His trademark material is the brightly coloured ‘African’ batik fabric he buys at Brixton market. The fabric was inspired by Indonesian design, mass-produced by the Dutch and eventually sold to the colonies in West Africa. In the 1960s the material became a new sign of African identity and independence.

In 2019 Shonibare was awarded the decoration of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire or CBE. Shonibare was a Turner prize nominee in 2004, and was also awarded the decoration of Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire or MBE, and he added this title to his professional name. He was notably commissioned by Okwui Enwezor at Documenta 11 in 2002 to create his most recognised work Gallantry and Criminal Conversation that launched him on to an international stage. He has exhibited at the Venice Biennale and internationally at leading museums worldwide. In September 2008 his major mid-career survey commenced at the MCA Sydney and then toured to the Brooklyn Museum, New York and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. He was elected as a Royal Academician by the Royal Academy, London, UK in 2013.

Portrait: Yinka Shonibare CBE, RA (2014). Photo by Marcus Leith.