/ The DC Traveler
Washington DC — By Jon Rochetti on January 12, 2010 at 12:45 pm

More Headless Dummies Seen in Washington, DC

No, I’m not talking about the usual gang of free-spending legislators on Capitol Hill, but about the unique theatrical art exhibit of British-born Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC.

Yinka Shonibare headless couple

Shonibare’s signature sculptures often feature elaborately costumed life-sized headless mannequins, many attired in period-styled costumes that could have been worn during the reign of Louis XVI just prior to the French Revolution.  However, the costumes are made using modern, brightly colored fabrics and Indonesian batiks with African themes along with designer logoed textiles. 

The exhibition entitled “Yinka Shonibare MBE” also includes paintings, large-scale mixed-media installations of rooms and table settings, photography and film.

One interesting piece is Scramble for Africa, a pivotal work of headless heads-of-state seated around a formal bargaining table, representing how the colonial European nations carved up the African continent. Yinka Shonibare headless art

Another is an interesting and entertaining 14-minute film Odile and Odette, inspired by the classic Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake.  The film features two ballerinas, one dressed in all white, the other in all black dancing in unison to each other’s reflection in a mirror. 

The potentially controversial piece is a collection of 5 works, Gallantry and Criminal Conversation, includes multiple life-sixed mannequins in various sexual positions illustrating the custom of wealthy Europeans to send younger adults coming of age on trips of discovery across Europe during the turn of the 20th century . This piece is not suitable for younger audiences and is located in a separate gallery due its obvious sexual nature. 

The exhibit presents a dozen years of the artist’s exploration of the colonial legacy of Africa, along with class structure and social justice.

Yinka Shonibare MBE
National Museum of African Art
950 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC  (map it)
202-633-4600

Dates & Times – Daily – 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. through March 7, 2010

Admission - Free

Nearest Metro Subway StationSmithsonian Station – Blue and Orange lines or L’Enfant Plaza – Blue, Orange, Green and Yellow lines, then a 2-3 block walk, or use the DC Circulator bus.

Parking – Limited metered street parking and area paid garage parking is available.

Images – Flickr – How to blow two heads at once, couple sitting

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