King to launch residencies for Caribbean artists at Dumfries House

Maro Itoje meeting King Charles in June 2022 at a Buckingham Palace reception to celebrate the Commonwealth Diaspora of the United Kingdom
Maro Itoje met the King at a Buckingham Palace reception in June 2022 - Instagram, Maro Itoje

The King has joined forces with England rugby player Maro Itoje to launch an “artist in residence” programme for African, Caribbean and diaspora artists at Dumfries House, his Scottish estate.

‌His charity, The King’s Foundation, said the collaboration would give up-and-coming artists the chance to live and work at the sprawling 18th century property for three months.

‌Mr Itoje, who met the King, 75, at a Buckingham Palace reception in June 2022, co-founded The Akoje Residency to provide opportunities to artists from the Commonwealth.

‌He said that Dumfries House, in East Ayrshire, offered “the perfect environment for artists to focus on their craft and learn from like minded individuals.”

He added: ‌“We believe art has the amazing ability to bring communities together.

‌“Our residency is a haven for emerging and established and emerging artists alike.”

Celebrating cultural heritage

‌The partnership with the King’s Foundation will offer up to eight funded residencies a year, designed to help artists develop their craft and learn new skills.

It will champion traditional arts and craftsmanship, reflecting the monarch’s passion, while celebrating the cultural heritages of the countries involved.

‌The artists will be invited to share their perspectives through talks, open studios and exhibitions.

‌Mr Itoje said it would allow African artists to improve and showcase their talents to a larger audience.

“They will benefit from being surrounded by the enriching ecosystem that Dumfries House provides as well as being a contributor to the growth of African art worldwide,” he added.

‌The first to benefit from the programme will be Nigeria-born Oliver Enwonwu, 48, who is working towards a PhD in African Art History at the University of Benin and who uses his work to celebrate achievements of African people.

Nigeria-born Oliver Enwonwu, 48, will be the first artist to benefit from the programme
Nigeria-born Oliver Enwonwu, 48, will be the first artist to benefit from the programme -

‌Simon Sadinsky, executive director of The King’s Foundation, said: “The residencies, each lasting for three months, will give international artists the opportunity to gain inspiration from our beautiful Dumfries House headquarters while also benefiting from access to The King’s Foundation’s wide range of specialist workshops, expertise, and skilled craftspeople.”

‌The then Prince Charles stepped in to save Dumfries House for the nation in 2007, with a £45 million rescue package.

‌He has since hailed the successful restoration project as proof that heritage-led regeneration “works… every time.”

‌The King’s Foundation is now based there and promotes the built environment, heritage, culture and education projects.

‌Mr Itoje met the King at a reception celebrating the contribution of the people of the Commonwealth in the UK.

‌He said at the time: “I think representation is always so important. There is that old phrase that ‘You can’t be it if you can’t see it’.

‌“If you see someone doing something, that acts as an inspiration and can help them strive to achieve.”

England's Maro Itoje celebrates winning 2024 Guinness Six Nations Championship Round 4, Twickenham
England's Maro Itoje co-founded The Akoje Residency to provide opportunities to artists from the Commonwealth - Dan Sheridan/INPHO/Shutterstock

‌Last July, a portrait of the King by emerging Commonwealth artist Sarah Knights, from Trinidad and Tobago, featured on the cover of Tatler magazine.

‌Tatler editor Richard Dennen worked with the Akoje Gallery, co-founded by Mr Itoje, to find an artist for the commission.

‌Mr Itoje had also introduced Mr Dennen to Oluwole Omofemi, a young artist based in south Nigeria, whose portrait of Elizabeth II graced Tatler’s commemorative Platinum Jubilee cover in 2022.