Malala Yousafzai: Portrait of education activist put on display

Portrait of Malala Yousafzai goes on show in display of work by Jonathan Yeo opening at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Story highlights

  • A painting of the teenager is being shown at the National Portrait Gallery in London
  • Artist Jonathan Yeo calls her "one of the most inspiring figures of our age"
  • He has donated the work to the Malala Fund, which was set up to help girls go to school
  • "I think that he has really captured me in the image," Malala says of the portrait

A previously unseen portrait of the teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai goes on show Wednesday in a new display of work by Jonathan Yeo opening at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Yeo says the portrait, measuring just less than a meter in height, is larger than life-size and shows the young campaigner, now 16 years old, doing her homework.

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The schoolgirl became the focus of global attention after she was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen last year.

Malala was 15 when gunmen jumped onto her school bus and shouted her name, scaring other girls into identifying her, in the attack in Pakistan's Swat Valley.

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The Taliban's actions sparked massive protests in Pakistan and condemnation worldwide.

Since recovering from brain surgery in Britain, Malala has continued her high-profile efforts to improve access to education for everyone.

She celebrated her 16th birthday at the United Nations in New York, where she delivered an emotional plea for all children to have the right to go to school.

Yeo first met Malala and her family in April 2013, when she had just started school in England and was still recovering from her life-threatening injuries, the gallery said in a news release.

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"It was a great privilege to spend some time with Malala and her family at such a pivotal moment in her life," said Yeo, who has donated the work to the Malala Fund, which was set up to help girls go to school.

"Given how much she has already been through and all that she represents to the world, it took a while to adjust to the fact that she is still a very fragile teenager. Hopefully the painting reflects the slight paradox of representing someone with enormous power and wisdom yet vulnerability and youth at the same time."

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He said it was an honor to support her charitable fund and to portray "one of the most inspiring figures of our age."

Malala said she was honored that the National Portrait Gallery wanted to show her picture. "I think that he has really captured me in the image," she said of Yeo's work. "It is wonderful to know that many children will ultimately be able to benefit from the money raised from its sale."

Other portraits by Yeo in the show include former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and actor Kevin Spacey, depicted in Shakespeare's "Richard III."

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