Sculpture of Yinka Shonibare “Earth Child (Boy)”Depicts a young boy facing climate change. The piece is currently on display at the Snite Museum of Art and goes hand in hand with the Notre Dame 2021 Sustainability Forum.
The Shonibare sculpture is approximately 5 feet tall and depicts a boy carrying a net on his hunched back. The net is filled with plastic waste, rubber gloves, crushed bottles and other non-recyclable waste.
Yonibare’s colorful mannequin is made of fiberglass and cotton textiles, with a globe where the boy’s head should be. The child’s pants are decorated with a peacock pattern, and his blazer is a mix of purple, orange and white hues. But the brilliant kaleidoscope of colors and patterns contrasts sharply with the message of Shonibare’s sculpture: today’s youth are facing an environmental crisis.
This is not the first time that Shonibare has mixed politics with art. He constantly speaks out on important issues and does so through a creative lens.
“Yinka Shonibare is one of the most important voices in the current climate change discourse,” said Gina Costa, head of marketing and public relations at the Snite Museum.
The globe that sits atop Earth Kid’s head is supposed to symbolize the universality of the issue of climate change. It is not just a problem that a country can deal with on its own – it calls on all nations to unite.
“Shonibare’s job is totally different from what anyone else does,” said Costa. “I mean, he’s just inventing his own visual vocabulary while tackling issues that are very, very important today.”
Shonibare is an Anglo-Nigerian artist who currently resides in London. His plays often comment on his African heritage, colonization and politics. He often manages to express messages by incorporating brightly colored mannequins like the one on display at the Snite. Costa said they were delighted to be able to exhibit Shonibare’s work at Notre Dame.
“To have a job like this in college is amazing,” Costa said.
The theme of the 2021 Notre Dame Forum was “Take care of our common home”, with a focus on climate change and sustainability. In addition to bringing plays like “Earth Kid (Boy)” and hosting speakers on campus, Notre Dame is also committing to a plan to reduce carbon emissions.
Daniel Miller, associate professor of environmental policy at the Keough School of Global Affairs, said he believed the Forum was a milestone for the university.
“The campus is currently buzzing with events, conversations and actions related to the theme of the ND Forum,” Miller said in an email. “I am optimistic that this process will lead to significant change – in education and research on campus, but more broadly in the world through our actions.”
Shonibare’s piece will be on display at the Snite until December 11 and is open to everyone.