The Food Fairy is a winged child wearing a leather strap backpack filled with mangos. The child's hands are curled, palms upward, as if leaping into flight. By dressing the child in a traditional Victorian England and Dutch upper middle class dress using textile pattern designed by Shonibare, the artist alludes to the colonization of West Africa by the English. This sculpture invites us to explore the history of identity as comprised of a combination of capitalist market demand and the mythology & folklore of colonized cultures.
The Cooper Gallery chose to incorporate Food Fairy into its Permanent Collection in large part because of the sculpture's shrewd acknowledgement of the impact that an imperialist market has had on the development of modern culture.
"But actually, the fabrics are not really authentically African the way people think. They prove to have a crossbred cultural background quite of their own. And it’s the fallacy of that signification that I like. It’s the way I view culture – it’s an artificial construct."
- Yinka Shonibare