PRINT September 1997


Like many esteemed artists before him, Chris Ofili knows that shit’s a great signifier. His trademark boulders of resin-coated elephant dung protrude from the ornate surfaces of his paintings and sometimes even support his canvases like the ball-and-claw feet on old furniture. When you learn that the artist is the Manchester-born son of Nigerian parents who emigrated to the UK just before his birth, these excrescences suddenly speak volumes about postcolonial nostalgia, back-to-nature yearnings, and notions of exotic otherness. Ofili first discovered his fecal attraction while on a British Council traveling scholarship to Zimbabwe in 1992 (in an exasperated attempt to express the intensity of his experiences, he’d thrown a lump of dried dung onto a canvas, and liked the result), so there’s a ready-made back-to-Africa-and-into-identity myth that has now become indelibly attached to his

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