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New Philadelphia Exhibit Highlights History Of Race, Commerce In Europe

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"Magic Ladders" shows a child using books to climb up in the world. (Credit: Cherri Gregg)

“Magic Ladders” shows a child using books to climb up in the world. (Credit: Cherri Gregg)

Gregg_Cherrie--NEW Cherri Gregg
Cherri Gregg is the community affairs reporter for KYW Newsr...
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By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Barnes Foundation opened a new exhibit this weekend that celebrates the work of a British artist of Nigerian descent.

Titled, “Magic Ladders,” the exhibit highlights the work of Yinka Shonibari, a British artist of Nigerian descent who lets his dual cultures collide. The showcase is comprised of 17 works and includes sculptures, paintings, photographs and a room installation.

“I hope people can just enjoy the color and then I hope they want to go a bit further,” says Shonibari, which notes the exhibit includes both older work and new commissioned work.

The pieces pair colorful African textiles with colonial European flair, with themes focused on education, opportunity and cultural discovery.

Shonibari on one of his signature pieces, titled, “Scramble for Africa,” which focuses on Berlin Conference, the meeting where Europeans divided African among themselves for colonization.

“This was done without asking Africans about their thoughts or their opinion,” he says, “so what you see here are 14 people sitting around a table. They’re headless and they’re wearing Victorian clothes made out of African textiles…they’re very, very colorful. And on the table– you have a 19th century map of Africa and they are debating about who will have what part of Africa. All of this really happened.”

"Scramble for Africa" (Credit: Cherri Gregg)

“Scramble for Africa” (Credit: Cherri Gregg)

Shonibari says many of his figures are headless, as a joke tied to the French revolution when many aristocrats lost their heads.

“There’s a lot of humor in the exhibition,” says Shonibari, “I want people to want to find out more…because it is also about serious issues too…there’s a lot of inequality in this world. Those who have, those who do not have. There are also questions about what is art.”

The exhibit runs through April 21st. For more, go to BarnesFoundation.org.

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