The artist commemorates the First World War with his alternative take on the British Library.
As part of the 14-18 NOW programme commemorating the centenary of the First World War, Yinka Shonibare MBE has produced a major new work called End of Empire. This impressive installation features two figures balanced on a Victorian see-saw, their heads replaced with two globes marking out the opposing alliances of the conflict as they stood in 1917. Clothed in the colourful Batik fabric that remains central to Shonibare’s practice these figures present the fragile dialogue, balance and shifting powers of warfare, which often have longstanding cultural consequences throughout the world.
This commission is presented alongside The British Library, featuring hundreds of books covered in a variety of the same fabric and inscribed with the names of important immigrant figures who have enriched British society. It also serves as a poignant reminder of how war can displace and move communities.
A series of multimedia stations offer details of every person immortalised in the library, as well as several videos playing various reportage, concerning conflict and immigration policy from recent history up to today. Visitors are also encouraged to submit their own personal stories in order to build on this rich history of British culture.