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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.
“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.
“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.