“I wanted to represent Elizabeth II at the height of her strength”

“I wanted to represent Elizabeth II at the height of her strength”

“I wanted to represent Elizabeth II at the height of her strength”

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The cover of the British magazine

The very chic British magazine designed the cover of the tribute number to the platinum jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, published in July Tatler he turned to Africa. It was Nigerian Oluwole Omofemi (represented by London-based Signature African Art gallery) who was ultimately selected to create an exclusive portrait for this publication specializing in British high society style, fashion and news. “It was a great challenge for me, because I never met the queen and I didn’t know much about her”remembers the artist, who claims to have it “tried to grasp the essence” of its subject.

For four weeks, the 34-year-old painter isolates himself completely from his wife and two small children to immerse himself in the study of the life of Elizabeth II. Oluwole Omofemi printed around 100 photographs and watched dozens of videos online to make the portrait of him, ultimately based on an image taken around 1955 in which the ruler wears the sash and star of the Order of the Garter. “I had to think about how I would infuse the Nigerian into this portrait”explains the artist, whose work focuses on depicting black women with impressive hairstyles.

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“I wanted to represent the queen at the height of her strength, power and beauty.He explains. Natural hair is a symbol of the power of the black women I paint, it’s like a halo around their head. ” The queen’s raven black headdress therefore takes center stage in this brightly colored portrait that evokes pop art. The silhouette of the young Elizabeth stands out against a bright yellow background, wearing a blue dress decorated with flowers. “This scheme allows me to create an environment tinged with Africanity. But I didn’t want to go too far, either, to offer a representation that remained universal “, explains Oluwole Homofemi.

“A symbol of hope for many people”

The painter shows his pride in being “The last African artist” of having represented the queen during his lifetime, even though he did not have the chance to see her pose for him, like his illustrious predecessor the sculptor Ben Enwonwu. In 1956 he had offered his services to the Secretary of State for the British Colonies on the occasion of Elizabeth II’s first official visit to Nigeria. The sovereign will pose for the Nigerian artist the following year in London. The monumental bronze statue created by Ben Enwonwu is now housed in the National Museum of Lagos.

  • In Cape Town, 1947. Elizabeth (second from left) is still just a princess.  For the first visit to South Africa, she is accompanied by her father, her King George VI, her mother, Queen consort Elizabeth, and her sister, Princess Margaret.  It was there, on April 21, 1947, her 21st birthday, that she gave her first Crown Princess speech:

    In Cape Town, 1947. Elizabeth (second from left) is still just a princess. For the first visit to South Africa, she is accompanied by her father, her King George VI, her mother, Queen consort Elizabeth, and her sister, Princess Margaret. It was there, on April 21, 1947, her 21st birthday, that she delivered her first Crown Princess speech: “I declare before you all that my whole life, long or short, will be devoted to your service and service of our great family in the Commonwealth, an empire to which we all belong.- / AFP

  • This photo depicts the tree house at Treetops Lodge, Kenya, where Elizabeth stayed the night her father, King George VI, died on February 6, 1952.

    This photo shows the tree house at Treetops Lodge, Kenya, where Elizabeth stayed the night her father, King George VI, died on February 6, 1952. YASUYOSHI CHIBA / AFP

  • In 1956, during a visit to Nigeria, then a British colony, Queen Elizabeth II met Adeniji Adele II, king of Lagos.

    In 1956, during a visit to Nigeria, then a British colony, Queen Elizabeth II met Adeniji Adele II, king of Lagos. – / AFP

  • On November 21, 1961, during a dance at the

    On November 21, 1961, during a dance at the “State House” in Accra, Queen Elizabeth II danced with Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana (who became independent in 1957). In the background, her husband, Prince Philip and First Lady Fathia Nkrumah. This photo went around the world, to the point of becoming one of the emblems of the modern Commonwealth, presumably postcolonial and multiracial. – / AFP

  • With Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie during a state visit to Addis Ababa in February 1965.

    With the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie during a state visit to Addis Ababa in February 1965. – / AFP

  • With the Zairian president Mobutu Sese Seko, in London, in December 1973.

    With the Zairian president Mobutu Sese Seko, in London, in December 1973. – / AFP

  • In March 1995, Elizabeth II went to South Africa for the first time as queen, a country to which she had not returned from her visit in 1947. There she met Nelson Mandela, who had been elected president a year earlier.

    In March 1995, Elizabeth II went to South Africa for the first time as queen, a country to which she had not returned from her visit in 1947. There she met Nelson Mandela, who had been elected president a year earlier. Stringer.

  • With Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings, Prince Philip and First Lady Nana Onadu Agyemang Rawlings at a meeting of traditional leaders in Ghana, November 1999.

    With Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings, Prince Philip and First Lady Nana Onadu Agyemang Rawlings at a meeting of traditional leaders in Ghana, November 1999. Photographer Reuters / REUTERS

  • With Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, in Abuja in December 2003, for his first visit to the country since its independence from the United Kingdom in 1960.

    With Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abuja in December 2003 for his first visit to the country since its independence from the UK in 1960. Photographer Reuters / Reuters

  • With Cameroonian President Paul Biya at Buckingham Palace in London in March 2004. Paul Biya, 89, whose country joined the Commonwealth in 1995, becomes the world's oldest head of state with the death of Elizabeth II.

    With Cameroonian President Paul Biya at Buckingham Palace in London in March 2004. Paul Biya, 89, whose country joined the Commonwealth in 1995, becomes the world’s oldest head of state with the death of Elizabeth II. KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH / AFP

  • Ugandans raise British flags in front of a portrait of Elizabeth II during the Queen's visit to Kampala for a Commonwealth summit in November 2007.

    Ugandans raise British flags in front of a portrait of Elizabeth II during the Queen’s visit to Kampala at a Commonwealth summit in November 2007. Euan Denholm / REUTERS

“I also remained positive in my interpretation because I think it was a beacon of hope for many people in the Commonwealth countries”says Oluwole Homofemi. The artist’s grandfather also told him with emotion the memories of the Queen’s visit in 1956, which had taken her to the four corners of the country still under British domination. The man, now 99, could see the monarch greet the crowd through the window of his Rolls-Royce. “I painted this portrait for my generation, for my family and for my country, so that history remembers that it was a Nigerian from Ibadan who made it”, proudly concludes his grandson.

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