When crisis and conflict afflicts a nation and threatens to tear it into smithereens, there are always those who undertake symbolic acts to heal the wounds. This is the story seen with the missing Nigerian painting that has been found in a North London flat.
The Nigerian-Biafran war left permanent scars on the psyche of the West African country. One painter, Ben Enwonwu, had to employ his artistic prowess to convey a powerful message of reconciliation. His 1974 painting of the Ifu princess Adetutu Ademiluyi , popularly known as Tutu, became a symbol of reconciliation in the aftermath of the devastating conflict.
Ben Enwonwu painted three versions of Tutu. However these went missing after his death in 1994. With the original one found in London, the fate of the other two remains enshrouded in obscurity and mystery. Giles Peppiatt, director of modern African art at auction house Bonham’s, made the discovery after he was invited to appraise artworks at a “modest north London flat”.
Mr. Enwonwu is regarded as the father of Nigerian modernism. Booker Prize winning novelist Ben Okri called it “the most significant discovery in contemporary African art in over 50 years”. He further added, “It is a cause for celebration, a potentially transforming moment in the world of art.”
The painting is expected to be worth around £300,000 at auction. It is to be auctioned at Bonham’s on 28 February.
The appearance of the original painting is “a momentous event and we expect it to generate enormous interest,” Mr Peppiatt said. It is not known how the piece came to be in north London, and the owners have requested anonymity.
Image Credits: BBC