Birdcage Kid (Boy)

This artwork is known to be under copyright.

Download, Print and Share

Did You Know?

Symbolic of hope and freedom, the birds and birdcage imagery in this piece can be connected to Maya Angelou’s 1969 book I know why the caged bird sings. Angelou briefly lived in Cleveland in the 1950s.


Stepping forward, a boy bends his body with the effort of carrying birdcages. The visual signature of Shonibare’s artistic practice, his Victorian era–style suit (c. 1820–1914), is tailored from boldly printed “African” or “Dutch” wax fabric. Indonesian in origin, this European-made fabric is now synonymous with West African dress. The artist uses it to consider cultural heritage and colonialism, and the denial of civil liberties experienced by members of the African diaspora. This includes mass incarceration, potently symbolized by the birds who fly from their cages. Here, the artist's concerns are intertwined with environmental conservation; each faux bird represents a critically endangered species.
Birdcage Kid (Boy)

Birdcage Kid (Boy)


Yinka Shonibare CBE RA

(British, Nigerian, b. 1962)

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.