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New portrait of former Ghanaian President unveiled at Exeter College

A ceremony was held at Exeter College on the 9th May 2023 to celebrate the unveiling of two portraits of His Excellency John Kufuor, a former President of Ghana and Honorary Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford.

Exeter College hosted a large, day-long ceremony to mark the occasion, at which over eighty guests were in attendance. Alongside artist Naima Aouni, and Kufuor himself, chief guests included His Majesty the King of Ashanti Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II, Ghana High Commissioner to the UK His Excellency Papa Owusu-Ankomah, and former UK Cabinet Minister Lord Paul Boateng.

John Kufuor served as the President of Ghana between 2001 and 2009, serving two terms as the country’s head of state. His ascension to the role notably marked the first peaceful and democratic transfer of power in Ghana’s history as an independent nation. His Presidency saw the inception of Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme and a foreign policy of ‘economic diplomacy’, which saw Ghana become a broker of peace in regional disputes.

The Rector of the College, Rick Trainor, spoke at the unveiling, highlighting Kufuor’s long career as a statesman and legacy as a democratically-elected leader. He added that the oil portrait of Kufuor in Exeter’s hall will complement the photograph in Cohen Quad in “inspir[ing] high achievement in public service by Exeter’s diverse student population, present and future.”

Aside from his tenure as Ghanaian President, Kufuor had a long career in Ghanaian politics, having first been elected as a Member of Parliament in 1969. He was elected to lead National People’s Party in 1996, a centre-right party which was, at the time, in opposition. Kufuor subsequently led the party to victory in the 2000 Ghanaian elections.

Kufuor was elected as Chairperson of the African Union between 2008 and 2009. He has also received numerous awards, including the Chatham House Prize in 2008 and the World Food Prize in 2011.

Kufuor studied at Lincoln’s Inn, London from 1959, being called to the bar in 1961. Following this, Kufuor matriculated at Oxford as a member of Exeter College in the same year, graduating with a degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics in 1964.

The first portrait, a photograph taken in 2016, was formally inaugurated following the delay of the scheduled inauguration ceremony during the pandemic. The photographic piece has been displayed prominently at the College’s Cohen Quad since the site was constructed in 2017.

The second portrait is an oil on canvas, painted by the Belgian-born artist Naima Aouni. Born in 1987, Aouni is a self-taught artist, and was commissioned by a group of Exeter fellows to paint this portrait of Kufuor.

The portrait is due to be installed in the 17th Century dining hall of Exeter College. Following its installation, the painting will hang alongside portraits of past rectors of the College, including Marilyn Butler and Frances Cairncross, during whose tenure Kufuor was selected as an Honorary Fellow of the College in 2002.

Other alumni of the College whose portraits feature in its collection include Honorary Fellow Reeta Chakrabarti, a prominent journalist, and College Fellow Prof Catherine Green, who played a leading role in the creation of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

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