Of Art, History, Multiculturalism and Origami...

After reading on the Times site about a never-published Alice in Wonderland chapter (!) - with a related letter that's up for sale (£15,000 to £20,000!), I happened to notice a story about a new statue that's just been unveiled in London, on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth.

A play on traditional statues, this one's a ship ... in bottle!

Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle was created by British artist Yinka Shonibare. Unusual and whimsical, this is just the kind of statue I'd really enjoy coming across (and I think a trip to London is long overdue!). What's more, there's also an interesting history about the textiles used in the original ship...

[...] Shonibare’s model of Nelson’s HMS Victory (his flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar) is gaudy with sails made from his trademark Dutch wax fabrics. “The Dutch wax fabrics were originally Indonesian-influenced fabrics, known as batik. The Dutch tried the Indonesian market with industrially produced versions and then subsequently [when this failed to work] they turned to West Africa, where they’re now known as African textiles,” Shonibare explains. “It’s an apt metaphor for understanding that behind a fixed idea or stereotype there are other complex layers.

“It’s very much a contemporary phenomenon that we take what we want from different cultures,” he says. “We might eat Indian today or hang out in Spain tomorrow. I celebrate that, it’s not unique to me just because of my African origins. It’s the way that most British people live their lives now. In a sense that’s what this piece is celebrating, it’s the legacy of Nelson. Nelson fought this battle against Napoleon and that meant that for the next 100 years or so the British had control of the seas. Which meant that the Empire could prosper and expand, and that process really did take in other cultures. One consequence of that is the very multicultural city that we have today.” -- from the Times article

Another fabulous thing about this statue (as well as another crafty tie-in!) is that the launch also comes with - prepare yourself - celebratory origami! Yes. You can download and print a PDF with the ship's Dutch wax fabric patterns on it, and follow the instructions to build your very own ship. Bottle not included.

Photos courtesy of failing_angel on Flickr (CC). You can see more photos in the set here.

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