Chinwe Chukwugo Roy, Official Portraitist To Queen Elizabeth II Dies After Battling Cancer
International painter and illustrious daughter of Nigeria in the Diaspora, Chinwe Chukwugo Roy, renowned for her portrait of Queen Elizabeth, passed on, on December 24 after a battle with cancer, according to family sources.
The news of her death was contained in a mail sent to Nigerian journalist, and writer, Molara Wood, which reads: “Dear Molara, the family have asked me to contact you to let you know that Chinwe passed away at home last Monday following a long battle with cancer. Typically of Chinwe, she fought the disease right to the end but died peacefully in her sleep. Rogan, Alasdair, Yolanda and Nwiru were with her constantly over the past five weeks so she had her family with her.
“The funeral is at 2:15 on Friday 11th January at Seven Hill Crematorium near Ipswich and everyone is invited back to Glevering Mill (IP13 0EY) afterwards.
“Kind regards, Linda Barrett (on behalf of Chinwe’s family).”
Roy, reputed as perhaps the only other artiste (after fellow Nigerian, the late Ben Enwonwu) that the Queen agreed to do her portrait made a memorable appearance during the Commonwealth Head of State meeting, CHOGOM, in 2004 in Abuja. That incidentally was one of the very few occasions when she really came to the attention of majority of her country folks as she had lived in the United Kingdom since 1975, and practised since 1975 but she had a huge reputation and extensive reach to other parts of the world. Though born in Nigeria, she was more known abroad than at home.
However, the National Gallery of Art under Mr. Joe Musa had also extended invitation to her during the African Regional Summit Visual Arts in 2008.
A note on her personal page states: “Born in Eastern Nigeria, Chinwe had always wanted to be an artist and took every opportunity to draw – even when this got her into trouble at school. She was greatly affected by the Biafran war both emotionally and through the lack of opportunities for study at that period in Nigeria. She travelled to Britain in 1975 and obtained a B.A. Hons. Degree in Graphic Design at Middlesex Polytechnic formerly Hornsey College of Art.
“She took up full time painting in 1988 and her work covers a wide area. As well as portraits in oils and pastels, her paintings depicting the history of the African continent have attracted wide acclaim. Chinwe also sculpts in clay. Her portrait commissions are extensive and the major commissions are listed on the exhibitions page. Her current major commission is to paint Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, at Buckingham Palace. She is the first black artist to do so. The commission, when completed, will hang in Marlborough House alongside that of her work of Chief Emeka Anyaoku the Secretary General of the Commonwealth whose portrait was unveiled by Her Majesty in March 2000.”
Speaking on her art, the late artist, stated: “I am greatly inspired by people; but especially by the survival spirit and tenacity of the people of Africa. It is not surprising therefore that my portraiture has developed in the area of figurative historical paintings.
“The decision to concentrate on portrait painting initially came with the realisation that I was more interested in people than other subjects. It is a consuming challenge to capture people’s characters, their outlook, the effect the world has on them and their response to it .
“This has gradually built up to involve me in the wider issues of cultures, countries and civilisations in Africa, through the ancient empires, slavery, colonisation, exploitation and their effects throughout the world.
“I try to portray the heat and the brightness of Africa and to create the mood that will convey the anguish and ecstasy through historical paintings such as ‘The African Slave Trade’ series, ‘Ndu Ozo’ and the ‘Africa – Past, Present and Future’ series.”
She said drawing on her profound knowledge of Africa and its history, which emerges in any question and answer session on her work, she was expanding her portrait commissions and continues her paintings depicting African culture in its entirety.