By: June Siu and Bernice Seow
British-Nigerian artist, Yinka Shonibare MBE presents a series of sculptures and screen prints in his latest exhibition, ‘Childhood Memories’. Drawing inspiration from the eponymous series and folk tales from his hometown Nigeria, Shonibare creates whimsical pieces fraught with personal meaning.
He is showing his works in Singapore under Pearl Lam Galleries and was in Singapore recently as part of Art Stage Singapore.
The sculpture ‘Boy Balancing Knowledge’ (picture above) hearkens back to childhood reminders from his father to read during car rides and idle moments, as his father had aspirations for him to become a lawyer. Since becoming an artist, Shonibare finds himself drawn to books again as a source of knowledge.
He cites childhood memories as but one of his many inspirations, “You always draw inspiration from your experiences anyway. It may not come at once, but at different moments in your life, you will remember something.”
The issue of identity is also close to Shonibare’s heart. He pushes forth the notion of a “universal human being” – we are all inherently alike despite our differences. He cites appreciation of arts and culture as one of the universal experiences of being human that transcends political and geographic boundaries.
“Human feelings and emotions are reactions that are quite similar, and I think art is the one thing that is capable of [evoking human emotions],” he says. Nonetheless, he does not strive to evoke a specific type of emotion through the works in this exhibition, but grants viewers the freedom of interpretation as one’s reaction towards an artwork is invariably tied to an individual’s personal experiences.
Having grown up in both Britain and Nigeria, Shonibare is aware of how complex and flexible ‘cultural identity’ can be.
He elaborates, “The best way is to embrace all the layers of identity you might have. I can’t really understand why people want to force others into choosing one country or culture. I think the way we live now, we take a little bit from here and there, and we make our own personal culture from there.“
‘Childhood Memories’ was borne “out of the context of global conflicts and wars today”. With a dose of innocence and nostalgia, it aims to provide a respite from all the heartache. As Shonibare puts it, “art has always been a form of escape and an exploration of the imagination.”
Yinka Shonibare’s solo exhibition ‘Childhood Memories’ is open to the public from 21 January to 13 March at Pearl Lam Galleries, 5 and 9 Lock Road, Gillman Barracks, 11am to 6pm.
Featured image: Flickr/Living-Learning Programs via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Boy Balancing Knowedge image: Courtesy of Yinka Shonibare
Group shot image: Bernice Seow