The Aesthetic of Textile: Featuring Shannon Bono and Sola Olulode

1 - 31 December 2020

Shannon Bono: “In West and Central Africa, the Dutch wax fabrics are the the symbol of family and special occasions” 

The Aesthetic of Textile online exhibition celebrates West and Central African textile craftsmanship and its influence on contemporary artists. 


African textiles have a rich and significant history; politically, socially and culturally. Arguably the most commonly used art form in many African societies, they play a huge role in culture and everyday life. As well as being purely decorative and used as wall hangings and fashion for example, textiles also serve the purpose of symbolising and implementing social structures. The designs are innovative and can be appreciated for both their technical and aesthetic qualities. 


The use and influence of textile by artists is not just a historical practice, and many contemporary artists continue to be inspired by the rich history of textile. For many artists who have roots in different cultures, using the art of their heritage can be a powerful way to reconnect with their backgrounds. By looking at two London based artists who have roots in West and Central Africa we will explore the versatility of the implementation of textile in contemporary art. 


Sola Olulode (b. 1996) is Nigerian-British and Shannon Bono (b. 1995)  is from Sierra Leone and Congo. Both artists are strongly influenced by the history of textile in their respective cultures and are using unique methods to innovate and elevate this medium in completely different ways. Sola focuses on colour and the traditional techniques used to alter fabric. Shannon meanwhile uses paint to explore different patterns inspired by print designs, as well as the significance of the female body. 


Sola Olulode: “I discovered the history of dying and indigo from Nigeria. I always want to tie in my own life with my work because my paintings are so personal."


The history of dying and indigo in Nigeria fascinates Sola, who uses this tradition as a central focus in her work. She found that dying the canvas was a highly effective way of layering colour and depth into her paintings. Working mediums such as wax, batik, oil bar and impasto Sola creates highly textured works that nod to the rich history of her culture as well as the nuances of her subject matter. The celebration of love and intimacy between queer Black womxn is at the core of Sola’s practice, which she represents in her paintings in an incredibly peaceful and tender way.  


Shannon Bono: “In West and Central Africa, the Dutch wax fabrics are the the symbol of family and special occasions” 


Shannon paints black female nudes surrounded by colourful intricate designs which take inspiration from the textiles of her heritage. She explores the very structure of the material, breaking it down and painting detailed shapes that almost resemble cells; a subtle nod to her background in biochemistry. Her female figures are painted over the background design and have a transparent quality, meaning the patterns underneath come through. They blend and almost become one with the body, without covering their nakedness, referencing the importance and significance of textile. Identifying as an Afrofemcentrist, Shannon asserts race, sex and art as a way of living, where black women are the subject depicted by a black women. She elevates women, and taking inspiration from Christian iconography, presents them as sources of wisdom and power. 


Shannon bono and Sola Olulode are two promising artists who are innovating the tradition of West and Central African textiles in completely different ways. Both chose to connect with their cultures through this medium, enforcing the relevance and importance of textiles today.