The British Library: A 10,000 book installation by British-Nigerian artist tackles immigration

Yinka Shonibare MBE british library 4

As part of this year’s HOUSE, Brighton’s festival of visual art and domestic space Yinka Shonibare MBE has created The British Library, a 10,000 book installation exploring the impact of immigration on British culture. 

The work, co-commissioned by HOUSE and the Brighton Festival, makes its home in the confines of the Old Reference Library at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.

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The books are all bound in Shonibare’s trademark African Dutch wax batik fabric and are housed in the library’s original wood bookcases.

The exhibit:

responds to both sides of the immigration debate, both for and against. Printed in gold foil on the spines of 3,500 of the books are the names of notable British immigrants who throughout history have made significant contributions to British culture and society, including those opposed to immigration.

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Yinka Shonibare, a British-Nigerian artist living in London, said, “Whilst the installation is a celebration of the ongoing contributions made to British society by people who have arrived here from other parts of the world or whose ancestors came to Britain as immigrants, it does not exclude the points of view of those who object to it. The British Library is inspired by the current debates about immigration and the public response to the new presence of Romanians in Britain”.

Yinka Shonibare MBE british library

10,000 book installation by Yinka Shonibare MBE explores British cultural immigration.
Yinka Shonibare MBE’s: The British Library
Photos: Jonathan Bassett.