This dollhouse is a replica of the 1872 Victorian town house in the East End of London where artist Yinka Shonibare now lives. Born in London, Shonibare spent most of his youth in Lagos, and his dual African and English cultural identity plays a large role in his work, which often takes the form of headless figures wearing the elaborate clothing of upper-class Victorians. Shonibare’s work explores issues of race and class through different media, including sculpture, painting, photography, and installation art.
In the nineteenth century, dollhouses were often custom-made for elite and well-to-do families as exact miniature replicas of larger homes. In Shonibare’s replica of his own home, as in many of his other projects, traditional West African “Dutch wax print” cloth figures prominently, for example covering the chairs and the bed. To impart a lived-in quality, Shonibare filled the rooms with furniture in various woods and styles; the two-story house includes cabinets, chairs, tables, fireplaces, and a canopy bed, along with reproductions of paintings by Shonibare and the eighteenth-century French artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard.