Through life-sized sculptures, artist Yinka Shonibare CBE considers the grasp of colonialism and its lasting effects on modern conceptions of identity. Each faceless figure is in the midst of an action, presented shooting a mass of cherry blossoms from a rifle, lumbering forward with a hefty mesh sack, or balancing a towering stack of cakes. Evocatively posed, the figures are topped with globes and astronaut helmets, which simultaneously gestures toward movement in the form of travel and exploration while obscuring individual identities.
Known for using patterned textiles across mediums, the British-Nigerian artist outfits his surreal sculptures with Batik fabrics, which have a history rooted in colonialism. Originally practiced in Southeast Asia, the wax-dyeing method was adopted by the Dutch, who commercially produced the patterned textiles and sold them to West African colonies. Since the 1960s, the vibrant fabric has come to signal African independence and identity.
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Long gone are the days when our first instinct is to migrate to a spinning globe to track the destinations around us or find a specific country. Now we have the power to digitally zoom in and out of the entire earth, utilizing mapping tools like Google Earth. The romanticism tied to these newer forms however, does not match the art of the ancient globe, the earliest dating back to the mid-2nd century B.C. Nowadays globes are either modern and massively produced, or antiquated models unsuited for casual browsing.
Frustrated by this lack of quality options when trying to find a globe as a present, Peter Bellerby started Bellerby & Co. Globemakers in order to produce globes that exist somewhere in-between the two options. “I did this as a direct result of looking, searching for a globe for my father for his 80th birthday, and I couldn’t find anything,” said Bellerby. “Initially my plan was to make one for him and maybe one for me if I had the budget.”
After spending tens of thousands of dollars more than he had originally predicted on the process, he decided to use what he’d learned to set up a company in 2008, eventually moving into their current location in Stoke Newington, London. The company employs a small team of makers that fastidiously work in an open environment with large windows, nestled between test sheets of watercolor paints and hanging strips of paper twirling from clothes pins. To master the process of applying paper to the sphere globes (called “goring”) can take up to a year or more.
“It’s been something that’s been an incredible challenge. The whole design process, the whole way of making anything using a sphere at its base, at its centerpiece is fraught with different problems and issues because you are multiplying every error by pi,” said Bellerby.
Bellerby & Co. Globemakers’ globes have been featured in Hollywood movies and BBC productions as well as used in installations by established artists. The company has also had support from the Royal Geographic Society and was able to host their first ever globe exhibition in 2012. To see more images of the daily life at the Bellerby & Co. studio, visit the company’s Instagram or their blog. (via My Modern Met)
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.