Born in London, Nahem Shoa worked as a graffiti artist before studying at Manchester College of Art, and also trained under Robert Lenkiewicz. More recently he has exhibited at Hartlepool City Art Gallery, Coventry City Art Gallery and Plymouth City Art Gallery. His work frequently draws on current world affairs, in particular, natural and man-made disasters.
When he donated this portrait to RAMM in 2014, Shoa recalled painting it in London:“For me it was the most complete portrait I have ever painted in a single sitting. At the time I was painting many full length black portraits and nudes from life, which were paintings that involved numerous sittings and often taken up to one year to complete… I was investigating in oil paint all the nuances of colour that there are in all different types black skin, not dissimilar to the way Lucien Freud or Euan Uglow both explored white skin.
It may surprise people that when I painted black portraits I never used black or brown oil paint in my palette; in fact I have always used the same colours in my palette to paint both white and black people. Many of my black friends who posed for me many times over a ten year period felt that when they go to museums the only images of black people are slaves or servants, which they all found very negative. I wanted to readdress this issue... because I think it’s important for cultural institutions to reflect in positive and powerful way the diversity of our society today…Desmond Haughton has painted a modern portrait of Olaudah Equiano for the Liverpool Museum. Haughton had to use the engraving from Equiano’s own book because as yet we are still not sure if the beautiful RAMM image is really a portrait of him.”
This object is on display at RAMM in the Courtyard.