"Shonibare's art engages with history in order to draw attention to important issues in the present" - Rachel Kent, curator, Yinka Shonibare MBE, 2008
Yinka Shonibare's mannequin of a child precariously balanced atop the earth is part of the artist's ongoing examination of the entanglement of political power, exploitation and commerce in contemporary society. In Globe Children, Shonibare turns his attention specifically to issues of global warming and its impact on the future of the planet, producing a work which maps changing temperatures and mankind's seeming inability to deal with the ensuing issues. Comprised of the figure of a headless child, clothed in what has become Shonibare's trademark use of 'African' fabric, the girl is perilously positioned on top of a globe shrouded in clouds of warm colors representing the meteorological charts which map the increasing surface temperatures of the planet-the swirling patterns of the globe and the faltering child all alluding to the unstable nature of both the planet and the future that it faces.
Global Children continues the artist's use of 'African' fabrics, a device with which he demonstrates the complex and inter-related nature of industry, society and the modern geo-political environment. Although these designs have become a symbol of 'African-ness,' their origins are much more complex and encompass Africa, Europe and the Far East. Originally inspired by the traditional batik fabric fabrics of Indonesia cloth of this type was in fact manufactured in the nineteenth century in the Netherlands and the North West of England and then marketed to West African buyers. Since then they have been adopted as a symbol of authentic African identity, both in the African countries themselves and for those who have emigrated to the West, particularly in the post-war period. It is precisely this sense of irony and global interconnectivity that appealed to Shonibare, writing about their tangled trans-continental history, he says, "What that means to me is a metaphorof interdependence" (Y. Shonibare, as quoted by R. Kent, "Time and Transformation in the Art of Yinka Shonibare MBE," Yinka Shonibare MBE, exh. cat., Munich, 2008, p. 12).
After studying at London's prestigious Goldsmith's College (whose notable alumni include Lucien Freud, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin) his large scale-sculptural pieces such as Global Children form the most important part of his diverse oeuvre. His central role in the contemporary canon was confirmed in 2004 with his nomination for Turner Prize and his subsequent appearance in over 33 solo museum exhibitions, culminating in his 2009 mid-career retrospective organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney before travelling to the Brooklyn Museum and the National Museum of African Art at Washington D.C.'s Smithsonian Institution. In 2005 he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth and his acceptance of this honor, plus his insistence on using the MBE moniker, is a further example of his ironic re-appropriation of Britain's colonial past.