Textiles and the sea have been closely interwoven for millennia: when humans depended on canvas to set sail, and when the oceans were crucial passageways for textile trade, the transportation of materials and finished fabrics, but also for those carrying the weight of textile labor. This talk will focus on Yinka Shonibare's interpretation of Théodore Géricault's Le radeau de la Méduse (1818-1819) and investigate the contemporary British-Nigerian artist's multi-layered approach to oceans of cloth. As in many others of his works, Shonibare used colorful wax-prints and chose them instead of plain white canvas for the sails, thus negotiating cloths whose patterns were inspired from Indonesian batiks, produced in the Netherlands and Britain and sold to the African continent, where they were appropriated and subsequently considered to be 'typically African'.This talk will show how an analysis of Shonibare's work unfolds a spectrum of diverse layers of maritime a well as textile power-relations, sounding out the role of visual culture and politics. Rather than being only reducible to a colorful accessoire, to a visual and material negotiation of Shonibare's British-Nigerian identity, or to the artist's 'trademark', the wax prints emphasize the multiple layers of the role of textiles and point not least to the violence inherent in them even rivalling the stormy sea about to devour the ship. Analyzing and contextualizing Shonibare's La Méduse in a colonial and postcolonial perspective will thus allow to explore the (foldable, striated) textile dimensions of Deleuze's and Guattari's smooth space of the seas.
Long abstract of your presentation
Main author information