Queen Elizabeth II by Ben Enwonwu (1957), Nigeria
In 1957, Nigeria was three years away from independence from England. It was the time when Queen Elizabeth’s reign coincided with a shrinking of the British empire and the emergence of a postcolonial age. Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994) arguably the most known 20th century African artist, was commissioned by the Queen in 1956 during her visit to Nigeria to sculpt a bronze statue of herself. The sculpture was unveiled on 5 November 1959 in Lagos at the start of the fifth session of the Nigerian House of Representatives in Lagos.
Fifty-one years later, on November 7, 2018, the then Prince Charles (now King Charles III) presided over an event in Lagos where Ben Enwonwu’s sculpture was again allowed to be in public view. For all these years after Independence the statue had been forgotten until Neil Coventry found it in a room used by the cleaners at the National Museum!