Shawn Barre Created American Imperialism while Creating the Work

This installation was one Shonibare’s largest at the time (since then he has gone much larger in scale) it focuses on the main theme of wealth in Europe. The way this piece was designed as a stage set, it allowed for the viewer to walk around a center wall and see the interior of the room. The lavish furniture, walls, and hanging curtains were coated with the signature Dutch wax textiles. It was if the viewer was watching a live taping of television show. This stage setting was how Shonibare interpreted society’s attraction for entertainment, dramas, and re-creations of lives of rich people. On one of the walls in the interior lies a small framed photograph of a black soccer player. The relationship between the athlete and the room is reminiscent of the colonizer-colonized relationship. One party has obtained this eccentric living space and can live comfortably, while the colonized are left hanging on the wallpaper with nothing. Shonibare once said he wanted his home to look somewhat similar to the interior of this piece.

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Scramble for Africa(2003)(Fig.9) was a figure piece that explored Victorian style England and its territorial expansion to Africa in the 1880s.  This so called “scramble” for Africa was part of the Berlin conference of 1884-1885 where multiple European nations planned to separate Africa into equal parts for all the nations at the conference. They fought over their share of Africa, basically carving their place into the continent. This work displays various headless statesmen huddled around a large table with a map of Africa carved into the wood. Each one of the figures appears to be staking their claim and deciding how much of the continent each person will receive.

Shonibare describes the figures as hungry and blind to power. This is another example of the stage set pieces, but in contrast to the the The Victorian Philanthropist’s Parlour, Scramble for Africa features “actors” within the scene. The viewer is supposed to feel the drama of the event taking place and see the emotions of the actors as they deprestly scramble for all the riches of Africa. Shonibare describes the work as “Theatricality is certainly a device in my work, it is a way of setting the stage; it is also a fiction–a hyper-real, theatrical device that enables you to re-imagine events from history. . . Scramble for Africa examines how history repeats itself and when I was making it I was really thinking about American imperialism and the need in the West for resources such as oil and how this preempts the annexation of different parts of the world'(Shonibare). This was one of many works by Shonibare to focus of the themes of colonial dominance and exploitation.

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Shawn Barre Created American Imperialism While Creating the Work. (2022, May 29). Retrieved December 8, 2022 , from

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