Princess of the Posse


This lovely lady, aptly named Princess of the Posse after the song of the same title by Queen Latifah, is all about blossoming in the face of adversity.

She’s “the high priestess of this hasta”, as the song names her. It’s a subject that artist Chris Ofili is pretty familiar with, as most of his works revolve around the central theme of struggling to find one’s identity. This princess, though, has a double whammy working against her: race and gender. That, however, is not the only thing that makes this work interesting.

What’s really intriguing about Ofili’s works are his materials. These materials included glitter, acrylic paint – nothing unusual there – resin, map pins – ok, that’s a little different – and elephant poop. Yes, Ofili is known for his use of elephant poop, both tacked on to the canvas and as a way to keep the work off the ground in a gallery space. The fact that Princess of the Posse is wearing a poop pendant on her necklace is a pretty apt way of showing the cards in life she’s been dealt as both a woman and an ethnic minority.

Ofili’s clever little choice of material, however symbolic it may be, is what drove Mayor Rudy Giuliani of Brooklyn to not only try to sue the pants off the Brooklyn Museum for exhibiting some of Ofili’s works, but also led to his public description of Ofili’s works as “horrible and disgusting projects”. In the words of Queen Latifah, “Forgive the crowds, O Lord, they know not why they sweat me."

All of this legal hoopla took place in the same year that Princess of the Posse (the collage, not the song) made its New York debut! That had to have been a lot for poor Chris Ofili: the excitement of opening a new show in New York only to be slapped in the face with a lawsuit and international scandal. At least he had some fun stories to write home about!

Though it was not this particular princess who stirred up trouble, I’m sure Mayor Giuliani wouldn’t have had anything nice to say about the artwork. Right back at ya, Rudy.