Congratulations to Yinka Shonibare CBE RA on the unveiling of Hibiscus Rising, a new public sculptural commission by the international artist that opened on November 25 as part of LEEDS 2023, Year of Culture. Co-commissioned by The David Oluwale Memorial Association (DOMA) to honour the life of Oluwale.
David Oluwale was a British Nigerian Leeds resident who was killed by police on April 18, 1969, drowning in the River Aire as a result of systematic police harassment and violence. Like Shonibare, David Oluwale spent his childhood in Lagos, moving to Leeds in 1949. Oluwale faced homelessness, mental ill-health and racism in the years before his death, his legacy has since inspired protest, reflection and reform in Leeds and beyond.
Hibiscus Rising is inspired by the hibiscus flower, a plant ubiquitous in Nigeria. This 10m high public artwork features Shonibare’s renowned African-inspired batik patterns, which explore themes of cultural and national identity. The flower grows all over Nigeria, where both Shonibare and Oluwale spent their childhoods, and for the artist evokes joyful memories of youth. The sculpture will be at the centre of a landscape designed by urban and rural place design company Planit-IE whose vision of ruptured ground giving way to the growth of the sculpture will create a striking setting. The sculpture will be located in the South Bank on Meadow Lane, next to the river in which he died and the recently opened David Oluwale footbridge.
Kully Thiarai, Creative Director and CEO of LEEDS 2023 said: “Hibiscus Rising is one of the most significant projects for LEEDS 2023 and we have been looking forward to seeing this new public artwork realised for a long time. David’s life story is incredibly important to the city and to remember him with such an extraordinary piece of art that will remain in Leeds long after our Year of Culture is something we are extremely proud to be a part of. We hope that Hibiscus Rising will be a symbol of hope, a place for reflection and for coming together in Leeds to look towards a positive future.”
Yinka Shonibare CBE RA said: “The sculpture will serve as a meeting point for reconciliation, a place of healing, a monument to the care of the most vulnerable in society. A pledge to address issues of poverty, mental health care, police harassment, homelessness and all types of discrimination. Here a new hope is created out of discord and trauma.”
Watch a short film about the work HERE.