Artist Profile: Tai Shani

1 November 2019

Tai Shani was born in London and has exhibited her work extensively in the UK and abroad. She is one of four Arts Council Collection artists shortlisted for the Turner Prize 2019, alongside Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock and Oscar Murillo. Their presentations are currently on show at Turner Contemporary in Margate, Kent.

Her project Dark Continent is a series of texts interpreted into performance, film and installation, as well as a commissioned soundtrack. The project is an expanded adaptation of Christine de Pizan’s 1405 protofeminist text The Book of the City of Ladies, in which dialogues with three celestial females, ‘Reason’, ‘Rectitude’ and ‘Justice’, build a metaphorical protected city for women, using examples of important contributions women have made to Western civilisation and arguments that prove their intellectual and moral equality with men.

The project draws on multiple references in addition to de Pizan’s text, including feminist science fiction, postmodern architecture and feminist and queer theory. These create both a physical and a conceptual space to critique contemporary gender constructs and imagine an alternative history.

In 2018, Dark Continent culminated in DC: Semiramis, a large-scale, sculptural, immersive installation that also functioned as a site for a 12-part performance series presented over four days at Glasgow International. Each documented episode focused on one of the characters of an allegorical ‘City of Women’.


The scale and scope of Tai Shani’s project challenges conceptions around traditional feminist art, which has historically centred on the domestic, craft, DIY and the personal body. Rather, Dark Continent considers feminist art practice in light of recent and ongoing rapid political shifts in regards to gender, race and class and how might art contribute in a meaningful way to these conversations.

Shani is nominated for the Turner Prize for her participation in Glasgow International 2018, her solo exhibition DC: Semiramis at The Tetley, Leeds and participation in Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance at Nottingham Contemporary and the De Le Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea.

One of the best known prizes for the visual arts in the world, the Turner Prize aims to promote public debate around new developments in contemporary British art. Established in 1984, the prize is named after JMW Turner (1775-1851) and aims to promote public interest in contemporary British art. It is awarded to a British artist for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work in the past twelve months. The Turner Prize award is £40,000 with £25,000 going to the winner and £5,000 each for the other shortlisted artists. The Turner Prize 2019 is on show at Turner Contemporary in Margate until 12 January 2020.



The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.