From November 7 – 8, 2018, The Ben Enwonwu Foundation and The British High Commission in collaboration with Bonhams celebrated the sculpture of HM Queen Elizabeth II, by Ben Enwonwu MBE. The exhibition of the Queen’s sculpture was in honour of HRH The Prince of Wales’ recent visit to Nigeria. The British Residence in Ikoyi, Lagos provided an excellent venue as the artist restaged his final solo exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London organised by the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA) at the same location.
Presently housed at the National Museum in Lagos, the sculpture of HM, the Queen is significant not only for its artistic merit but because it celebrates the relationship between Nigeria and Great Britain in many ways. Enwonwu was trained at the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art in London through a scholarship partly funded by the British Council. He was also a member of the RBA. And in 1954, he was awarded an MBE, for his contributions to art and culture.
His works did not only celebrate Africa but were used to champion Black nationalists struggles all over the world. He is credited with inventing a Nigerian national aesthetic by fusing indigenous traditions with Western techniques and modes of representation. This is easily exemplified in HM’s bronze portrait, where there is a careful balance of realism in the physical features of the face, torso and hands, and the geometric abstraction in the folds of the dress, drawn from traditional African sculpture that gave birth to modern art.