In a new exhibition at the William Morris Gallery, Yinka Shonibare MBE brings his signature textiles to the Victorian artist’s family photos.
The William Morris Family Album is the institution’s first major commission. Taking the Gallery’s collection as his starting point, Shonibare has restaged photographs of Morris’s family in a manner bringing to light the two artists’ overlapping political interests. Working with a diverse group of Waltham Forest residents, the Shonibare pays homage to William Morris’s socialist principles as well as the Gallery’s tradition of community involvement.
While some of the sitters keep the sombre 19th century dress, others wear Victorian designs executed in bright African-inspired batik fabric. The patterns were created specifically for the commission, but are symptomatic of the British Nigerian artist’s oeuvre. Persistently tackling themes like the textile trade, colonialism and the Victorian age, it is easy to see the parallels with Morris’s engagement with textiles, imperialism and egalitarian ideals.
Shonibare said: “The photographs are a celebration of costumes, textiles and diversity in the Morris world from a 21st century perspective.”
William Morris Gallery, London, until 7 June