Queen Moremi: The Awakening Of An Iconic Heroine
You need not be Yoruba to have heard of the iconic Queen Moremi Ajasoro. Famed to be one of the most heroic women that ever lived, her bravery and selfless sacrifice are legendary.
This easily explains why Patty Chidiac-Mastrogiannis, the founder of Alexis Galleries Limited and Princess Ronke Ademiluyi, the heritage ambassador of Queen Moremi Ajasoro legacy came together to bring Moremi back to life 1700 years after she lived.
Seating with Patty who is an art entrepreneur per excellence and a woman who gives her all to the arts, for a chat about Queen Moremi: A View From the Masters, (a travelling art exhibition) as she gets her makeup done ahead of a press conference is as cozy as lighthearted as she is.
Patty who is of Lebanese descent but considers herself an African has lived in Nigeria for 43 years and she is every bit a Nigerian as any citizen born here. As such, it is with an excited twinkle in her eyes, she begins the chat about Moremi.
Speaking about how her passion for the arts and philanthropist works has influenced her, she says,
“Art is my passion and I am a philanthropist because I believe in the people and the growth of an artist. As a collector, I believe the art industry in Nigeria needs every bit of help it gets hence why I am thrilled to be a part of this.”
She explains further that the mismanagement of artists in Nigeria has limited the industry and now that necessary things are being put in place, she believes that Nigerian artists are showing the world that there are talents here.
On her experience in Nigeria, she says,
“It has been tough. They ridiculed me and i was laughed at. I was very much excluded, but I have been able to keep my promise in growing the arts in Nigeria. I am very respected now because the oyinbo woman has kept her promise.”
On why the choice of turning Moremi into a travelling art exhibition, considering there are other Yoruba heroes that can be celebrated, she explains,
“I think the question should be why not Moremi? It just happened because I went to see the Moremi show [organised by House of Oduduwa] and I was ecstatically surprised. I was happy to see such a show happening in Nigeria with international standards. While I was seeing the show, I could see art in it and colours being splashed so I reached out to Princess Ronke about doing an exhibition so we did in partnership with House of Oduduwa. If not for the Princess, Moremi would not have woken up at all, so this was how Moremi came to me.”
She explains the plans to take the exhibition and its message to the grassroots,
“Yes, at some point the message will go back to the grassroots. What we are doing now is not just reaching out to Nigerians but to the world. Moremi: A View From The Masters is a travelling show, it will go to London, Europe, hopefully, Asia and everywhere else. There are “200 million” Yorubas in the world and most of them are abroad (via ex). Moremi is their icon so we want to take her home and teach the world about her. We need to show the world, the Nigerian heritage and I am proud to be a part.”
Just as she is about to end her interview, she chips in the importance of Moremi to women of today both those in leadership positions and the common woman.
“Women have very strong pain thresholds because they are born mothers. Women endure a lot and while some show it, some don’t. Moremi is proof to everyone and not just women that if you love something, you would fight for it no matter the cost. Women fight for their families aggressively on the daily and this is the message of Moremi. Moremi is strong and she changed destiny and history by saving her people and this is what women can do.
Princess Ronke Ademiluyi: Modern-day Moremi
The popular saying, “With great power comes great responsibility” encapsulates the life of Princess Ronke Ademiluyi. The founder of African Fashion Week, Nigerian and African Fashion Week London, she had a lot on her plate before she was appointed the Global Ambassador to the Queen Moremi Ajasoro legacy by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwsui.
At first glance, Princess Ademiyuli’s swanlike grace and her undeniable beauty are enough to understand why she is considered a worthy ambassador of the iconic Yoruba heroine. Beauty and grace are not all she has in common with Moremi because it is easy to deduce that she shares Moremi’s virtue of bravery. Not only is the Ile-Ife princess a living embodiment of Moremi, but her works are also geared towards safeguarding the legacies of the late heroine.
Despite having a few things named after Queen Moremi such as halls in the University of Lagos, the University of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), and the tallest statue in Nigeria, Princess Ademiluyi knows more has to be done to preserve the legacy of the Queen who massively contributed to the emancipation of the Yoruba people.
On other ways Queen Moremi is being immortalised, Princess Ademiyuli explains that the exhibition is not the first.
“There are other ways Queen Moremi Ajasoro is being immortalised. The musical is not the first. For instance, his Imperial Majesty, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi erected the tallest statue of her. In 2017, we started a cultural pageant of Queen Moremi for the 17 to 25-year-olds and whoever wins automatically becomes a youth ambassador to the Ooni of Ife. We took it a step further by publishing a book in collaboration with OAU and at the moment, we are trying to get the book embedded into the curriculum of schools in Nigeria.
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