Art in the Diaspora

Boomerang: Returning to African Abstraction Exhibition at James Cohan by Yinka Shonibare

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Yinka Shonibare CBE, the celebrated British-Nigerian artist renowned for his thought-provoking works, embarks on a journey into African abstraction with his upcoming exhibition, “Boomerang: Returning to African Abstraction,” at James Cohan, NY. The exhibition is set to take place from October 26 to December 2023.

The African abstraction, a genre of art steeped in centuries of diverse culture, defies easy categorization. Shonibare, a master of blending African and European influences, explores colonialism, globalization, and cultural hybridity themes.

Yinka Shonibare CBE, ‘Modern Magic IV’, 2022. Image courtesy of Instagram.

His choice of material, Dutch wax fabric, symbolizes the interconnectedness of cultures, reflecting African identity in a globalized world. This textile, paradoxically European in origin, becomes a canvas for Shonibare’s intricate narratives. “Boomerang” represents a shift in Shonibare’s exploration, focusing on African abstraction. It challenges conventional Western views, highlighting its complexities and evolving nature. African abstraction encompasses geometric patterns, minimalist expressions, and spiritual symbolism.

Yinka Shonibare’s approach is deeply personal, influenced by his African heritage and European upbringing. He bridges tradition and innovation, uniting Dutch wax fabric with contemporary art techniques—the exhibition dialogues between African abstraction and modern artistic expressions. “Boomerang” is a turning point for contemporary African artists. It revisits and redefines artistic roots, positioning African abstraction in contemporary global art discourse. Shonibare’s exploration pays homage to the continent’s heritage.

YINKA SHONIBARE, CBE, Man Moving Up, 2022, fibreglass mannequins, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, bespoke globe, brass, leather, paper, cotton, silk, steel, aluminium and painted wood., 175 x 221.7 x 195 cm. Image courtesy of James Cohan, Instagram.

The exhibition promises a visual spectacle, inviting viewers to delve into African abstraction’s intricacies. Shonibare’s innovative approach challenges our perception of this ancient yet evolving genre. James Cohan is also presenting a fantastic installation by Yinka Shonibare at the Amory Show later this week. To connect with Shonibare’s vision and the world of African abstraction, visit James Cohan for more information.

This highly anticipated exhibition is truly an ode to traditional African movements. “Boomerang: Returning to African Abstraction” marks a landmark moment in African art. Yinka Shonibare’s exploration sheds new light on African abstraction, reaffirming its place in contemporary art. This exhibition promises a profound, visually captivating experience that will leave an indelible mark on African art.


Rose Mwikali Musyoki is a creative writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Business and Finance from the University of Embu, Kenya, and is the founder of Bloom Inc, an art startup in Kenya. Currently, she works as a writer for Art News Africa.

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