‘She sat for him 12 times’: The Nigerian artist who made a bronze sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II says he never expected the monarch to take him seriously enough to pose as a model
Artists: Musa Sowunmi, 32, a refugee from Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgency, visited the Queen with his father in 2004 and posed as a model
Musa Sowunmi, from Lagos, was invited to pose for a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II which will be installed on London’s Buckingham Palace in a major public art project due to be officially opened later this month.
Sowunmi, who is 32 and has been on the run from Nigeria’s Boko Haram since 2004, believes he has proved himself to be more than capable of capturing the Queen’s attention, which he believes will help advance his career, as well as that of others like him.
He said: ‘People are attracted to her. When people like the Queen come at the right time they have a big impact. People like her.
‘I’m the first one who is actually interested in the Queen. I did a lot of portraits of her but I never really considered her as one of them. And then she came to my studio in London and I was flattered.
‘She was very friendly and I became more interested in the Queen. It was the first time I got close to her. So now I know that the way to get closer to the Queen is to think like her.
‘Because there is a lot of things that happen in the world the Queen looks at and she does things. She says things. She is a person of great power.’
The project, being paid for by the Queen herself, will place two large portraits by artists such as Musa Sowunmi and James Martin on the palace walls. The works are to be unveiled later this month.
Musa Sowunmi, who was born in Lagos, fled to Britain in order to avoid being killed by the military wing of the notorious Islamist group Boko Haram.
He became the first Nigerian to pose for a portrait by the Queen and his work was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts’ annual summer exhibition of paintings and drawings in 2004.
Sowunmi’s father, Okonkwo Sowunmi (41) who had been working as a driver