Yinka Shonibare’s ‘The British Library’

In Yinka Shonibare MBE’s new installation, The British Library, he explores the impact of immigration on British culture by covering hundreds of books—written by those “both celebrated and unfamiliar” who, as immigrants, made unique contributions to what is now accepted as ‘British’ culture—with his trademark Dutch wax (batik) fabrics. Gold tooling on the spines declare the names of all these individuals who, at some point, came to Britain as immigrants, and made their mark.

The British Library asks us to evaluate our attitudes to immigration and immigrants.”

I am always impressed by Shonibare MBE’s work…but especially love this installation, for the sheer joy of seeing whole book shelves crammed with books that have been covered in bold, parti-coloured Dutch wax fabrics. Fabulous! Although not actually bound in these fabrics (I don’t think Brighton Library would let anyone change the covers of their books…the fabrics are merely wrapped around like dust jackets) it certainly sets my own bookbinder’s imagination daydreaming about actually binding my own library in similar, flamboyant fashion.

I did say it was a daydream. 🙂 As though I didn’t already have enough to do for 5 lifetimes…


House Festival 2014.

6 thoughts on “Yinka Shonibare’s ‘The British Library’

  1. How bizarre! I just published my blog post about this installation too. I was one of the lucky artists who worked on it and ‘bound’ loads of the books. I think there were at least 10,000 of them. I wrote a little about that too. It was a brilliant few weeks and all those fabrics were wonderful. Best of all I got to keep some of the scraps from the bins. And the books look and feel beautiful. I was really proud to see your post about it. Thanks for writing it. I love your work, your updated posts go straight to my email so I rarely comment but keep up to date.


    1. I just happened to visit his website yesterday, looking for the figure of the girl on a unicycle with a propeller…!! Your post is AMAAAZING! I LOVE all the in-progress photos; so envious that you were part of it. Sheesh, 10,000 books…In the photos on his site there are just a few bookshelves, so I thought that was it. your post is so much juicier, coming from an insider! You are right to be proud, he’s a brilliant guy. Thank you for sharing! Can I link to your post?


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