Chinwe Ifeoma Chukwuogo-Roy MBE (2 May 1952 − 17 December 2012) was a visual artist who was born in Awka (Oka), Anambra state, Nigeria, but spent much of her young life in Ikom on the Cameroon border, before moving back to the family home at Umubele in Awka. She lived in Britain from 1975. Her paintings, prints and sculptures are predominantly figurative, in the genres of portraiture, still-life, landscape and narrative subjects. She won international attention in 2002 for being the first of only two Nigerian artists (the other being Ben Enwonwu) to have been allowed to paint official portraits of Queen Elizabeth II.
Chukwuogo-Roy was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2009 Birthday Honours.
Early years and education
Chinwe Chukwuogo-Roy was born in Ondo State, Nigeria, but moved with her family to Ikom in Cross Rivers State, where her father had extensive cocoa plantations. As a teenager she was a refugee in the Biafran War after which she moved to the family home in Awka Anambra State and in 1975 she moved to Britain. She studied at East Ham College and subsequently obtained a B.A. Hons. Degree in Graphic Design from Hornsey College of Art (now part of Middlesex University) in 1978. She took up painting professionally in 1988.
Chukwuogo-Roy first gained international fame for painting the official Golden Jubilee portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, commissioned by The Commonwealth Secretariat. The full-length portrait was unveiled at a ceremony at Marlborough House by former Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon on Commonwealth Day, 2002.
In 2003, Chukwuogo-Roy represented the United Kingdom at the European Council Committee in Paris, advising on Contemporary African Art and Artists. In December that year, she also instigated and organised the “Celebrate” Exhibition for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Abuja.
Chinwe was a founder member of the renowned Sudbourne Printmakers, involving several leading Suffolk artists.
In December 2013, after a lengthy illness with cancer, she died at her home in Hacheston, near Framlingham, Suffolk.
Style and concepts
Chukwuogo-Roy created paintings, prints and sculptures that are predominantly figurative, in the genres of portraiture, still-life, landscape and narrative subjects. Her naturalistic portraiture is usually optimistic or celebratory in tone. However, she also created many works that, according to Sandra Gibson, writing for Nerve, elicit “complex feelings of desperation, dread and aspiration”. Notable among such works are her “Migrants” series and her “African Slave Trade” series.
Collections and exhibitions
Examples of Chukwuogo-Roy’s work are held in many public and private art collections, including that of Queen Elizabeth II, and that of Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria.
Chukwuogo-Roy exhibited throughout Britain, as well as internationally. Her work is represented in public and private collections in Antigua, Argentina, Australia, France, Grenada, Ireland, Kenya, Malaysia, Moçambique, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and USA. She had many solo exhibitions including those at Christchurch Mansions, Ipswich; The Mall Galleries, London; The Royal Commonwealth Society, London; Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia; Reve’s Cork Street Gallery, London; Connecticut University, Connecticut; Didi Museum, Lagos; UNESCO, Paris; Aldeburgh Festival Gallery, Suffolk; Colchester and Ipswich Museum Saatchi Gallery; Suffolk,
Chukwuogo-Roy’s portrait of the 1990–2000 Commonwealth Secretary-General Emeka Anyaoku was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999 and hangs alongside the Golden Jubilee portrait of the monarch herself in Marlborough House. There has been a permanent exhibition of her work in the Menzies & Hancock Rooms at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study since May 2006.
Recognition and awards
Chukwuogo-Roy won many awards and was featured prominently in the international media, both for her art and also for her charitable and educational work with young people. A biography entitled Chinwe Roy – Artist, published by Tamarind Books, is now studied by children in the UK as part of the National Curriculum.
In 2003, Chukwuogo-Roy was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of East Anglia.
Her work appeared on the national postage stamps of seven countries during 2006. In 2008, she was invited to address the Cambridge Union. In 2010 Chukwuogo-Roy was made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her contributions to Art.