Art in the Diaspora

Yinka Shonibare’s Hibiscus Rising Was Launched in Leeds, England

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Yinka Shonibare CBE RA’s new sculpture “Hibiscus Rising” was launched on Saturday, 25th November 2023 in memory of David Oluwale, a British Nigerian and resident of Leeds. The sculpture which will be unveiled as part of Leeds 2023, the city’s landmark year of culture was motivated by Oluwale’s impactful life story; the local community decided to establish a lasting tribute to honor him. Oluwale drowned in the River Aire on 18 April 1969 after being systematically harassed by members of the Leeds City police force.

Taking inspiration from the hibiscus flower, a plant common to the Nigerian soil, this major new project is an adornment of batik patterns inspired by African art. Serving as a symbol of hope, it stands prominently as a beacon for the community, and also offers a space for the people to come together and share stories of reconciliation, healing, and renewal for the city.

Hibiscus Rising by Yinka Shonibare CBE RA, Image courtesy of Leeds year of culture 2023

Born in London, artist Shonibare moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three and later returned to London for his Fine Art studies at Byam School of Art (now Central Saint Martin’s College) and Goldsmith’s College. Sharing his thoughts concerning the project, Shonibare commented: “It is an honour to have been asked to create this new work to remember an ordinary man with an extraordinary legacy. This sculpture will be a symbol of hope; an everyday reminder of our desire to improve the lives of all and a place for people to come together and I’m looking forward to working with DOMA and the communities where David lived in the months and years to come.”

According to Kully Thiarai “DOMA has created an extraordinary moment for Leeds by bringing an artist of the calibre of Yinka Shonibare to our city. Yinka’s sculpture will encourage us to learn from the past and is an incredible legacy for the future. Across our city, there are many people who are locked out of opportunities and through projects like this one, and more, we have the potential to help create chances to nurture and inspire the next generation of creative talent as well as celebrate the rich diversity and internationalism of Leeds.”


Joy Adeboye is a creative writer and visual storyteller. She is a graduate of the Department of English and Literary Studies at Obafemi Awolowo University. She is currently a Writer for Art News Africa.

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