My favourite painting: Tessy Ojo

The chief executive of The Diana Award chooses a picture that will inspire you to find 'people who will help you stand tall and not make you shrink'.

Tessy Ojo on While We Wait by Sophia Oshodin

‘This painting highlights the challenges and inequality facing women across the world. It speaks about women conditioned to wait their turn, wait to be recognised or wait for permission on what happens to their bodies. What I love about it is how it portrays the women and female friendship: although they might be “waiting”, they are still living; they are creating memories.

‘They have coffee in hand, games on the table and wear gorgeous earrings. It speaks about empowerment and, to me, about the company you keep. Get yourself a tribe of cheerleaders, people who will help you stand tall and not make you shrink. Every girl needs a good tribe’

Tessy Ojo is chief executive of The Diana Award, which continues Diana, Princess of Wales’s legacy of rewarding young people for their social action and humanitarian work.

Charlotte Mullins on While We Wait

Two women sit around a small coffee table sipping hot drinks and playing cards. They are smartly dressed in bold patterns: checks follow the contours of one woman’s crossed legs, as flamingos on the other woman’s dress seem to dance across the surface. Purples and yellows writhe through her hair as muscular succulents push in from the edges of the canvas.

Sophie Oshodin trained in political science before returning to painting in 2019. Self-taught, she draws on a wide range of art for inspiration, including Matisse’s highly patterned interiors. Often, her women are involved in leisure activities — riding on a scooter, reading on a balcony, relaxing in a bath with a glass of red wine — but they are always active and dynamic. The women in While We Wait are similarly alert, even questioning. As they gaze confidently at us, it is as if they expect something to happen — social change perhaps? — although they seem resigned to the fact that it may take a while.

The artist has spoken of the notable absence of black figures in Western art and her latest paintings have a political edge. She is a Nigerian painter who works in London and the figures she depicts could exist in either location. Whether picking lemons in a leafy garden or selling them at an urban market stall, she ultimately wants to give her women agency, to give them power. They assert themselves on the canvas and we can’t help but look at them and revel in their bold bonheur de vivre.

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