Yinka Shonibare CBE RA | Restitution of the Mind and Soul

Yinka Shonibare CBE RA 15 September - 17 November 2022 Goodman Gallery, Cape Town

Goodman Gallery presents Restitution of the Mind and Soul by Yinka Shonibare CBE RA. This exhibition of new quilts, masks and sculptures marks Shonibare’s first solo exhibition with the gallery in Cape Town and his second exhibition with Goodman Gallery since bringing the iconic African Library to Johannesburg in 2018, which also marked the artist’s first show on the African Continent for fifteen years.

The premise for Shonibare’s exhibition four years ago, titled Ruins Decorated, rested on his belief that culture has evolved out of a process described by the artist as a “mongrelisation”.
Restitution of the Mind and Soul takes Shonibare’s enduring interest in the legacy of African aesthetics to the next level, responding to the fact that “the African contribution to modernism has never really been celebrated in the way it ought to be” (Shonibare).

For this latest body of work, Shonibare considers how African aesthetics have shaped western modernist expression. The exhibition directly responds to Picasso’s collection of African artefacts, juxtaposing icons of classical European antiquity with these artefacts. Using Picasso’s collection as a starting point, these new works are a response to the widely acknowledged influence that African imagery had on major twentieth century artists and on entire western art movements, such as Cubism, Dada and Surrealism.

A series of vibrantly coloured, hand-stitched quilts illustrate African artefacts, which formed part of the private collections of influential modernist artists such as Matisse and Derain. Classical European sculptures of goddesses drawn from Greek and Roman mythology are hand-painted with Shonibare’s signature Dutch wax batik patterns, their heads replaced with replicas of African masks complimentary to the figure’s associated myths. Each mask has been drawn from a prominent twentieth century artist’s collection.

A further set of intricate, hand-painted masks appear alongside a slide projection, titled Paris á Noir II (2022), which presents historical archive material that conveys the fashion of African art and cultures in 1920-30s Paris. The work exposes the conflicted relationships between ‘western’ and ‘tribal’, appropriation and admiration.

According to Shonibare, “Paris of the early 20th century was hungry for the energy and culture of African communities, informing the nightlife, intellectual and literary scene, art, dance design and politics. It became a European centre for Black culture, fluctuating between facilitating black empowerment and reinforcing the fetishisation of African cultures by the mostly white bourgeois elite.”

A brief look at the impact of African aesthetics on key western artists from this era shows the pervasive nature of this influence. Georges Braque, André Derain and Amedeo Modigliani all collected artefacts from the African continent. Matisse collected African masks and sculptures extensively, including a Congolese Vili figure purchased at a Curio shop. He travelled to Algeria in 1906, inspiring his 1907 painting Blue Nude and where he studied African art. His studio was adorned with Kuba cloth from what is today the Democratic Republic of Congo and incorporated the cloth’s patterns into his work. In reference to these cloths, Matisse remarked: “I never tire of looking at them […] and waiting for something to come to me from the mystery of their instinctive geometry”. Matisse is also reported to have brought an African mask to one of Gertrude Stein’s famous salons, which marked Picasso’s first “up-close” encounter.

Derain visited ethnographic collections in Paris and London and had African masks and sculptures in his personal collection. Man Ray’s introduction to African art was at Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 Gallery in New York for a show of African sculpture called Statuary in Wood by African Savages (1914). The Dada performer and poet, Tristan Tzara was a committed collector of African and Oceanic art and helped to organise the exhibition Art African et Art Océanien (1930) at Théatre Pigalle in Paris, which consisted of 425 objects from Africa and Oceania. Picasso, Derain, Braque, Joan Miró, Paul Guillaume and Félix Fénéon all lent objects for the exhibition.

Restitution of the Mind and Soul addresses this pervasive, one-sided cultural appropriation of African artefacts by subjecting European aesthetics to processes of appropriation that results in a multi-layered cross-cultural hybridity:
“I want to challenge notions of cultural authenticity, by creating a composite ideology, ‘a third myth’, exploring appropriation, cultural identity, and the ability to transform beyond what is expected and therefore compels us to contemplate our world differently” – Shonibare.



Yinka Shonibare CBE RA

Yinka Shonibare CBE RA (b. London, UK, 1962) moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three. He returned to the UK to study Fine Art at Byam Shaw School of Art, London and Goldsmiths College, London, where he received his Masters in Fine Art.

In 2022, Shonibare unveiled three major sculptural works in Stockholm, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. In recent years, he has unveiled Wind Sculptures at Norval Foundation in Cape Town (2019) and Central Park, New York (2018). Shonibare’s first public art commission, titled Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, was displayed on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2010 and was acquired by London’s National Maritime Museum.

Current and recent survey exhibitions and retrospectives include Yinka Shonibare CBE: Planets in My Head (1 April – 31 October 2022) at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Michigan and Yinka Shonibare CBE: End of Empire at the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg (22 May 2021 – 3 October 2021). Shonibare’s 2008 mid-career survey travelled from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney to the Brooklyn Museum in New York as well as the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

Major awards include the Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon Award 2021 and Shonibare was honoured as ‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ in 2019. Shonibare was also nominated for the Turner Prize in 2004, and in 2002, he created one of his most recognised installations, Gallantry and Criminal Conversation for Documenta XI.

Notable museum collections include: Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town; Norval Foundation, Cape Town; Tate, London; the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Guggenheim Abu Dhabi; Moderna Museet, Stockholm and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

November 2022 marks the official launch following a soft launch earlier this year of Guest Artists Space (G. A. S.) Foundation in Nigeria. The non-profit, which receives strategic oversight from UK-based charity Yinka Shonibare Foundation, delivers residency programmes across sites in Lagos and on a 54-acre working farm in Ijebu. The launch will host a series of talks, exhibitions and performances.