The artwork of one of Africa’s legendary artists, Ben Enwonwu, has been found after being forgotten for decades.
The painting, titled “Christine”, was discovered by a family in Texas. It is a beautiful depiction of an American hairstylist of West Indian descent, Christine Elizabeth Davis.
Enwonwu painted Christine in less than a week in 1971 after being contracted by her husband, Elvis Davis. He portrayed her in a Nigerian attire with ‘gele’ (headscarf) and earrings.
After the demise of Christine, the painting remained forgotten as it hung on the family’s wall for decades until it was recently discovered.
The auction: The painting, which is valued at N72.77 million ($200,000), is scheduled to be sold at Modern & Contemporary African Art Auction on October 15, 2019.
Meanwhile, this is not the first time Enwonwu’s painting will be found after a long time, as his ‘Tutu’ painting was also uncovered in North London. The painting was the portrait of Adetutu Ademiluyi, a Nigerian royal princess, who was referred to as the Mona Lisa of Africa. It was sold for $1.7 million in 2018.
Ben Enwonwu was a widely-acclaimed Nigerian painter and sculptor who had exhibitions in Europe and the United States and was listed in the International Directories of Contemporary Arts.
In 1971, Enwonwu was appointed the first Professor of Fine Art at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). During that time, his painting of Princess Adetutu became a symbol of Nigerian reconciliation after the war. A few decades ago, when the three depictions of the painting got missing, there was a serious hunt for them because they were regarded as national cultural treasures.
Other notable paintings of Enwonwu include Risen Christ, Portrait of Chief Candido Joao Da Rocha, Bronze sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II and Sango – the Yoruba god of thunder.