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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Yinka Shonibare: Earth Kids

James Cohan / New York / Art

“Art, like philosophy,” says the British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare CBE, “can start a debate and then can change thinking, and what we then hope is that that thinking becomes political, and then becomes policy.” In Earth Kids, Shonibare makes works that connect colonial domination to the exploitation of the natural world. Four sculptures represent the four elements: earth, air, fire, water. Each is the figure of a child—a fiberglass mannequin dressed in the Dutch wax-printed cottons, brightly-colored, that are worn in Africa. Their heads are globes of the Earth. And each is doing something relevant to their element. For instance, Water Kid holds a glass pitcher that pours out nothing. Earth Kid shoulders a fishing net full of plastic trash. These children—the future—suggest characters in folktales. Will ingenuity and rescue prevail? Or are these doomsday scenarios? —E.C.

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