Yinka Shonibare CBE:
Planets in My Head

Yinka Shonibare CBE:
Planets in My Head

April 1 October 23, 2022

After being closed for more than a year for renovations, our remodeled sculpture galleries are reopening in 2022 with the much-anticipated exhibition Yinka Shonibare CBE: Planets in My Head


This exhibition presents works by Yinka Shonibare CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) from the past three decades. Many of the works have never been shown in the United States, among them sculptures, paintings, photographs, collages, embroidery, and film. Shonibare, a self-proclaimed "postcolonial hybrid" of British-Nigerian heritage, has emerged as one of the leading artistic voices in the global art world. He is best known for his playful combination of colorful Dutch wax-fabric patterns popular in West Africa with the fashion of upper-class Victorian culture.

Born in London to Nigerian parents and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, where he spoke Yoruba at home and English at the private school he attended, Shonibare has a bicultural heritage. His identity is shaped by the postcolonial experience of being in two places at once; of growing up located between center and margin of the British Empire. Postcolonialism and hybridity define his artistic and political identity and are major themes in his prodigious artistic output. While Shonibare embraces cross-cultural mixing and exchange in his work, he never shies from alluding to the postcolonial scars of cultural imperialism and exploitation.   

Yinka Shonibare's richly sensuous body of works at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park meet a unique environment of gardens and art. After visiting the sculpture galleries, venture across the BISSELL Corridor into one of our conservatories to see and smell plant species from climates around the world. Here, you’ll find a landscape inspired by the Victorian love for and scientific interest in horticulture, within the Earl & Donnalee Holton Victorian Garden Parlor filled with plants and sculptures. During March and April, experience the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory filled with thousands of butterflies, another species Victorians liked to collect and exhibit.    

As this exhibition reveals, Shonibare thinks globally and uses his artistic imagination to comment on colonialism, art history, environment, education, knowledge, food justice, and other subjects of universal concern.


Essay by Jochen Wierich, PhD

Exhibition Guide

Fashion in Contemporary Art (Lecture)
Saturday, June 18, 11 am-12 pm

Suzanne Eberle, PhD, Professor Emerita, Kendall College of Art and Design

Like Yinka Shonibare, many contemporary artists use clothing as a part of their aesthetic practice.  Join us as we explore how and why textiles and fashion, particularly 18th and 19th century garments, play an influential and often metaphorical role in contemporary art.


Abundance and Scarcity: Yinka Shonibare CBE and Food Justice (Lecture)
Saturday, July 16, 11 am-12 pm

Jochen Wierich, PhD, Assistant Curator and Researcher at Meijer Gardens and Associate Professor of Art History at Aquinas College

Inspired by the history of agriculture, and particularly fruit-growing, in West Michigan, Yinka Shonibare created a new sculpture specifically for the exhibition of his work at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.  In this talk, we will explore his and other contemporary artists’ work that engages with food distribution and food justice.


Complex Embodiment: Yinka Shonibare CBE and Disability (Lecture)
Saturday September 3, 11 am-12 pm

Jessica Cooley, PhD, Guest Curator, Ford Foundation Gallery

Yinka Shonibare CBE and the Pan-African Imagination (Lecture)
Saturday, October 1, 11 am-12 pm

Antawan Byrd, PhD candidate in the art history department at Northwestern University, Weinberg Fellow, Associate Curator of Photography and Media at the Art Institute of Chicago


1:30 pm 3:00 pm

 Explore common themes of Yinka Shonibare CBE’s work.


Mursalata Muhammad
May 14, 2022 11:00 am

Gallery Walk

Join a guided discussion in our newly opened galleries.


Amber Oudsema
June 21, 2022 6:30 pm

Juneteenth Poetry Workshop

Walk through the galleries with Amber Oudsema, Curator of Arts Education. Look in-depth at two works in particular that relate to the idea of the American dream as it relates to African American people in Yinka Shonibare CBE’s work. Then spend an hour and a half with GRCC professor of English, Mursalata Muhammad, who will guide you in an ekphrastic poetry writing activity. 


Mursalata Muhammad

In this talk, we will explore Yinka Shonibare's work that engages with food distribution and food justice.

In this talk we will explore the entwined forces of disability, race, and colonialism.

Globes recur throughout Yinka Shonibare CBE’s art.


Yinka Shonibare CBE: Planets in My Head is made possible by:

Bill Padnos & Margy Kaye

The Louis and Helen Padnos Foundation

The Meijer Foundation

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Foundation

Botanic and Sculpture Societies of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Michigan Arts and Culture Council, a Partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts