For the Meridians sector of Art Basel Miami Beach 2021, James Cohan is pleased to present Moving Up, a solo project by Yinka Shonibare CBE. This large-scale sculptural installation builds on Shonibare’s interest in American history and its unique ties to colonialism and diasporic identity formation by exploring the Great Migration—the decades-long exodus of six million Black Americans from the rural South to cities in the North, Midwest, and West from 1916 to 1970. Moving Up will be on view at the Miami Beach Convention Center from November 30 to December 4, 2021.
The work consists of three figures carrying their worldly possessions in bags, suitcases, and nets as they climb a grand staircase, a metaphor for their upward movement geographically, economically, and socially. Each figure dons 19th-century attire made from the artist’s signature Dutch Wax fabric. Shonibare is well-known for his use of these textiles as a symbol of the contradictions and complexities of cultural origins. The figures’ period costumes allude to the Victorian Era, the zenith of the colonial period when the foundations of the sharecropping system and Jim Crow – the instruments of suppression for Black Americans in the South – were laid.
Shonibare says of the installation, "Moving Up captures the bravery of migrating Black Americans seeking a new place within public life in the cities of the North and West. While the migration resulted from inhumane living conditions, structural racism, and labour exploitation, it brought forth a new era of African-American self-assertion within American society. The persistence, endurance, and dedication of this generation shaped the contemporary American social, economic, and cultural landscape."
To explore the work in our Viewing Room, click here.