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Daily Helping for August 9th, 2021 – Yinka Shonibare – Diary of a Victorian Dandy

A photo from the series Diary of a Victorian Dandy by Yinka Shonibare. The photograph shows a group of men in Victorian dress meeting in a library while several maids peek in through the door. Yinka Shonibare is standing in the centre of the photograph.

People sometimes ask me how I choose my daily helpings, and it’s a question that has a variety of answers. Some of the works of art I have to go looking for. Others are sent to me through recommendations. Many of them come to me through the wizardry of YouTube’s algorithm. And then there’s today’s helping, which came to me because I typed the wrong phrase into Google. I was looking for more information about Tamary Kudita’s African Victorian, but somehow found myself looking at Diary of a Victorian Dandy by Yinka Shonibare instead. Best mistake ever.

Diary of a Victorian Dandy is a series of photographs that depict a day in the life of a Victorian dandy. And yes, I had to look up ‘dandy’. Apparently it means a man unduly devoted to style, neatness, and fashion in dress and appearance, so turns out I have met many a dandy in my lifetime. But I digress.

The dandy of this photo series is the artist himself, Yinka Shonibare, and the photographs show him both at work and at play. But mostly at play. The fact that this dandy is being played by a Black man gives these photos a bit of a surreal edge to them, as it was highly unlikely for a Black man to achieve a position like this in the Victorian era. It’s a powerful bit of social commentary, but the photos are also just plain fun. My favourite is the 11am portrait showing Shonibare still in bed and being fawned over by his staff, but they are all fantastic. As I said, best mistake ever.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!