The Rhetorical Dimensions of Yinka Shonibare’s 2016 Work and Tobenna Okwuosa’s 2015 Work in Linked Appropriations
By: Tobenna Okwuosa


Yinka Shonibare’s 2016 solo exhibition at Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, titled ...And the Wall Fell Away, featured some of the artist’s new works. Fascinating in this show was the appropriation of Dutch Wax patterns rather than the fabric itself, which had become his signature artistic material. The works shown included three classical Western sculptures; “David,” “Venus de Milo” and “The Discus Thrower,” hand-painted with patterns of Dutch wax textiles. Shonibare also showed a good number of screen-prints, which according to the gallery was “Shonibare’s largest and most ambitious to date.”The exhibition had two parts: Gallery One showcased works based “on ideas of rationality in classical art, while in Gallery Two, on religious hybridity.”In an earlier exhibition Okwuosa produced a similar composition.The work created in 2015, is entitled “Before You, Mother Idoto, Naked I Stand...Under Your Power Wait I on Barefoot, Watchman for the Watchword at Heavensgate...”, shares similar iconographies with ...and the “Wall Fell Away” (2016) by Shonibare.

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Press Release, “Yinka Shonibare MBE, ‘...and the wall fell away’.” [http:/



Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, London: Penguin Books, 2008, Walter Benjamin published three versions of the essay; the original, German edition in 1935; the French edition in 1936; and the revised edition in 1939, from which derive the English translations of “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (Cf. “You be the Judge: Original vs. Copy.” 19 February 2016 [ you-be-the-judge-original-vs-copy/]; and “Plagiarism in Art: How can we Differentiate Between Inspiration, Coincidence, and Copying”. 15 October 2016 [ plagiarism-in-art-how-can-we-differentiate-between-inspiration-coincidence-and-copying/]).

Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie, “Osahenye Kainebi and The Conundrum of Contemporary

Painting,” in Trash-ing, an exhibition catalogue (Lagos: Center for Contemporary Art, 2009).

Dr. Omokaro Izevbigie, taught art history at the undergraduate level at the University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria while I studied there. He used the two anthropological terms: “the spontaneous theory” and “the diffusionist theory,” to talk about artistic practices that happened in different places without one influencing the other and artistic practices that were influenced by some other practices from elsewhere.

Robert Nelson, “Appropriation” in Critical Terms for Art History Second Ed.), eds Robert S Nelson and Richard Shiff, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2003, 162.

Nelson, Ibid.

Nelson, 163.

Richard Shiff, “Originality,” in Critical Terms for Art History Second Ed.), eds Robert S Nelson and Richard Shiff, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2003. 148

Nancy Hynes, “Re-Dressing History,” African Arts XXXIV, 3 (2001): 61.


Olu Oguibe, “Double Dutch and the Culture Game,” in The Culture Game (Minneapolis: University of

Minnesota Press, 2004), 34.

Rachel Kent, “Time and Transformation in the Art of Yinka Shonibare MBE,” in Yinka Shonibare MBE

(Berlin, London, New York: Prestel Verlag, 2008), 12.

Hynes, “Re-Dressing History,” 62.

In 2005, Tobenna Okwuosa had a three-month artist in residence program at Worcester State College

(now Worcester State University), Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. He was the first recipient of Philip

L. Ravenhill fellowship administrated by the Fowler Museum, University of California, Los Angeles,


This title was derived from Christopher Okigbo’s poem “The Passage,” Labyrinths (London, Ibadan,

Nairobi, Lusaka: Heinemann, 1971), 3.

Kathleen E. Bickford, “Printed Textile Design,” in Everyday Patterns: Factory Printed Cloth of Africa

(Kansa City: University of Missouri-Kansas City Gallery of Art, 1997), 11.


Herbert M. Cole and Chike C. Aniakor, Igbo Arts: Community and Cosmos, (California: The University of California Press, 1984), 14.

Moyo Okediji, “She Quelled the Storm: Dissident Aesthetics in Nigerian Women’s Art,” in The Art of

Nigerian Women, Chukwuemeka Bosah (New Albany, Ohio and Enugu: Ben Bosah Books), 33.

“The Vitruvian Man - by Leonardo da Vinci.” [].

.22. Natalie Wolchover, “Did Leonardo da Vinci Copy his Famous ‘Vitruvian Man’?” [http://].



. Katie Law, “Artist Yinka Shonibare on pushing the boundaries of art and a new fashion for building

walls.” 21 September 2016 [



Catherine Beyer, “Geometric Shapes and their Symbolic Meanings.” 7 April, 2017 [https://].


Finley Eversole, Art and Spiritual Transformation: The Seven Stages of Death and Rebirth (Rochester,

Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2009), 112.

See Chinua Achebe, No Longer at Ease (Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Book Ltd, 1960), 115.

This phrase was inspired by an idea in the speech of “the bearded old man” in Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah, who says: “The story is our escort; without it, we are blind. Does the blind man own his escort? No, neither do we the story; rather it is the story that owns us and directs us.” (Essex:

William Heinemann Ltd, 1987), 124.


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