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Odile and Odette IV
49" x 63.5"
C-print
2005-06

The paintings, sculptures, photographs, films and performances of Yinka Shonibare, MBE, examine colonialism and post-colonialism through a contemporary lens. In many of his works, Shonibare integrates Western art history and literature in order to call into question what comprises our collective contemporary identity. In Odile and Odette IV, Shonibare relies on characters from Tchaikovsky’s 1875 ballet Swan Lake to realize his story. In this image, the duality of womanhood in the characters Odile and Odette are mirrored before the viewer’s eyes. Odile and Odette articulate the artist’s desire to recognize the similarity that exists between things continuously viewed as dissimilar. As in many of Shonibare’s works, fabric plays a crucial role in this piece. The rich and bold colors of the ballerina’s costumes are created from Dutch wax print fabric, a cloth that narrates the complex trade and cultural relationships that existed between Europe and its colonial properties during the 19th century. By incorporating this fabric in the costumes of the two ballerinas, Shonibare presents a statement about the complex hybridity that exists between Europe and Africa.

— From Susan Kart, “Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Pas Deus…Yinka Shonibare’s Spectacular Doubling of a Single Variation,” Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Odile and Odette (exhibition catalog). Savannah College of Art and Design, 2008.