The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (Australia), 2008
Chromogenic print mounted on aluminum
71.5 x 49.25 inches
80.5 x 58 x 2.75 inches (outer frame)
The C. Curtis Dunnavan Fund for Contemporary Art
Yinka Shonibare has referred to himself a "postcolonial hybrid." He was born in London to Nigerian parents, raised in Lagos, and returned to England to attend an exclusive boarding school. His dual identity as African and English and his personal experience with issues of race, class, and colonialism have profoundly informed his work.
Colorful printed fabrics such as those used for the garments in The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (Australia) have become Shonibare's trademark. The textiles are based on late nineteenth-century Dutch and British factory-produced fabrics that call to mind Indonesian batiks. These fabrics became popular in the markets of West Africa and have become inextricably linked with African identity. "But actually," says Shonibare, "the fabrics are not really authentically African the way people think. They prove to have a crossbred cultural background quite of their own." This photograph is based on Francisco Goya's print, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, from his series "Los Caprichos," a veiled critique of Spain's political and social vices. Shonibare has adopted Goya's powerful commentary and applied it to contemporary issues of cultural identity, race, and the lasting impact of eighteenth-century colonization.