The Art of Chinwe Chukwuogo Roy

POSTED IN Art, Art history, Culture, Drawn art, Painting
By Tobijulo Onifade
The month of March is known to have notable dates such as mother’s day and International Women’s day. My plan at the time was to research notable African (mostly Nigerian) women who have done marvellous things in the creative sector around the world and do a piece on each one. I learnt and discovered a lot during that period and although my plan did not exactly pan out, I think it will be a great injustice if I did not share some of my findings. Chinwe Chukwuogo Roy is one of them.
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Chinwe Chukwuogo Roy was born in Nigeria on the 2nd of May 1952. She was born in Eastern Nigeria (although some sources state that she was actually born in Ondo) and was a lover of Art at a young age and was regularly disciplined for that as she drew at every opportunity she got. She was a refugee of the Biafra war and this affected her in many ways. She was scared emotionally from the war and due to the lack of opportunities to study in Nigeria after the war, she left for Britain in 1975 and studied Graphic design at Hornsy College of Art which is known as Middlesex Polytechnic today. She got her degree in 1978 but became a professional painter in 1988.
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Chinwe Chukwuogo Roy was great with different mediums but was famous for her studies in Oil and Pastels, she was also an accomplished Printmaker and Sculptor. Her favourite means of expression was portraiture using oils. According to her personal statement on her website, Mrs. Roy was greatly inspired by people especially by the survival spirit and tenacity of Africans. Her decision to go into portraiture stemmed from the fact that she was more interested in people than subjects, she found capturing human characters, their outlook and more challenging. This challenge led to meeting new people from different parts of the world and learning about their culture and traditions, especially Africans. Apart from portraiture, she did a series on Colonisation and Slave trade. What gave her work a certain edge apart from her skills was her use of colour. She had a way she of mixing and using a colour that created a nostalgic/serene feeling, which made her work subtle and beautiful.
Image from artnowandthen.blogspot.com
Mrs Roy gained acclaim when she was chosen to do a portrait for Queen Elizabeth II for her
Golden Jubilee. This was commissioned by the Commonwealth Secretariat and was unveiled at a ceremony at Marlborough House by former Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon on Commonwealth Day, 2002. She is one of two Africans, commissioned to do a portrait of the Queen, the second being Ben Enwonwu, who was also Nigerian. The Queen was said to have been delighted in her work and her painting is now part of the Royal
Collection. She was also bestowed the Membership in The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. This project/ commission led to more as she painted portraits of other prominent people like our for President, Olusegun Obasanjo, His Excellency Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Secretary-General of The Commonwealth and many others.
Image from http://www.eadt.co.uk/
Apart from being a professional painter she was involved in Art education in Africa. According to an article on www.eadt.co.uk, her grandfather was a well-known craftsman/blacksmith who designed gates for the Royal family. He was internationally acclaimed as well. Her father in her own words, belonged to the ‘lost generation’, the generation that focused on getting ‘proper jobs’ although he was an artist at heart. Her role was to encourage the youths to follow their dreams and consider Art as an option as well as a means of expression.
Mrs Roy was an avid supporter of Arsenal FC, received worldwide recognition for her work and contribution to heart community Chinwe was a founder member of the renowned Sudbourne Printmakers) and as well exhibited her works worldwide. She has an autobiography and has a curriculum dedicated to her and school children are taught about her. She died in 2012 at the age of 60 after a long battle with cancer and is survived by her husband, children, grandchild and other relatives.
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