The work is an incredibly detailed, scaled-down replica of Nelson's flagship HMS Victory, on which the British hero died during the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805.
It has 80 cannon and 37 sails set as on the day of battle. The richly patterned sails were inspired by Indonesian batik, mass-produced by Dutch traders and sold in West Africa. Today these designs are associated with African dress and identity. The characteristic bright colours and abstract symmetries of Dutch Wax fabric have accrued many complex, often ambivalent associations – with colonialism, industrialisation, emigration, cultural appropriation, and the invention (and reinvention) of tradition – all of which are foregrounded in Shonibare’s work.
Yinka Shonibare MBE is one of Britain’s best-known artists. He was born in London and raised in Nigeria before returning to the UK to study fine art. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2004, the same year in which he was awarded an MBE (an appellation that he uses when exhibiting and signing works). He has exhibited at the Venice Biennial and internationally at leading museums. Shonibare is known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism through the media of painting, sculpture, photography, film and performance.