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Chris Ofili

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

Artist 70

Chris Ofili ‘no Woman, no Cry’ Painting

Manchester-born artist Chris Ofili uses his Nigerian heritage and cultural scrutiny lies at the heart of this artist’s work.

Ofili tackles themes such as street culture, the history of African diaspora, death, the sacred and the profane, sexuality and self-awareness, these works are often ironic celebrations of ‘black’ stereotypes.

The focus of today is the painting ‘No Woman No Cry’ – whose title was borrowed from a Bob Marley song.

No Woman, No Cry is a very large, densely layered painting that depicts a crying woman.

The woman, who has dark hair and black skin and is shown in profile, is formed from a thin brown painted outline that is filled with many small dark brown circles.

Forming the pendant of her necklace is a lump of elephant dung containing map pins.

A series of pale blue tears descends from each of her eyes, all of which feature at their centre a very small collaged photograph of a Stephen Lawrence’s face.

The words ‘RIP Stephen Lawrence 1974–1993’ appear very faintly underneath the top layer, with the dates obscured by the shoulders of the woman.

When exhibited, the painting rests on two large lumps of elephant dung that are placed on the floor, while its upper edge leans against the gallery wall. This painting was a tribute to Doreen Lawrence, whose son Stephen was the victim of a deadly racist attack. He often uses cuttings of images combining them in his paintings.

The woman in this picture is the mother of Stephen Lawrence, Doreen Lawrence. Stephen Lawrence was killed on 13 April 1993; one of the highest profile racial killings in UK history. This sparked widespread protest. Finally, 21 years later, the perpetrators were convicted; in 2012.

Chris Ofili frequently uses elephant dung and has revealed that displaying elephant dung ‘reversed the dynamic’ between Europeans and Africans. While African elephants have historically been mutilated by people from Western countries for their ivory, they somehow get their revenge through Ofili’s paintings: ‘shitting on the viewer from a great height, tusks intact’.

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