Yinka Shonibare CBE RA: End of Empire

12 Oct 2023-16 Jun 2024

The Box
Plymouth PL4 8AX


This large-scale sculpture comments on the balance of power at the outset of the First World War, making a striking visual connection between the conflicts of the West, globalisation and empire.

Commissioned by 14-18 NOW End of Empire depicts two dapper figures with globe heads on a steam-punk seesaw - a symbol of Victorian industrialism. They wear brightly coloured suits made of ‘Dutch wax’ textiles: fabric that tells a story about colonial history, via Indonesian-style batik prints made in Dutch mills and sold to 19th-century Nigeria.

The globe heads represent the two ‘sides’ in the First World War: the British-French allies versus the Austro-Hungarians and Germans. The coloured textile designs indicate the African lands formerly colonised by the Europeans.

The First World War witnessed the disappearance of four once-powerful realms - German, Habsburg, Ottoman and Russian. The seesaw swings slowly, constantly rebalancing - a symbol of the move towards this 'end of empire’.

Admission free.
No need to book.