Ben (Benedict Chukwukadibia) Enwonwu, M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) The ceremony of Eid ul-Fitr, Nigeria
Lot 101W
Ben (Benedict Chukwukadibia) Enwonwu, M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) The Durbar of Eid ul-Fitr, Kano, Nigeria
Sold for £193,250 (US$ 327,111) inc. premium
Lot Details
Ben (Benedict Chukwukadibia) Enwonwu, M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994)
The Durbar of Eid ul-Fitr, Kano, Nigeria
signed and dated 'Ben Enwonwu 1955' (lower left); bears Piccadilly Gallery label (verso)
oil on canvas
86 x 183cm (33 7/8 x 72 1/16in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    Piccadilly Gallery, London
    Acquired by the President of the Junior Combination Room Art Gallery, Downing College, Cambridge in 1955
    A private collection


    EXHIBITED:
    The Piccadilly Gallery, London, 1955, no.53

    In northern Nigeria, Eid-ul-Fitr – the end of Ramadan – is celebrated with a Durbar, or festive procession. The Durbar is initiated by the Emir of each state, and consists of a series of prayers followed by a parade of the Emir and his elaborately-dressed entourage, many on horses or camels, to the Emir's palace. The procession is accompanied by music players (particularly drummers) and is an energetic and colourful event: the subject clearly captured the artist's imagination and is ably documented in the dynamic composition of the present lot.

    Enwonwu evokes both a sense of continuity in time and a fleeting moment; the impression of a crowd and the experience of an individual. A seemingly endless procession of colourfully-garbed people spreads across the strongly horizontal picture plane, sweeping the viewer along with the crowd as it makes its way through the sketchy outlines of the cityscape. However, this sense of uniform movement is punctuated by the whirling figure on the right, who instead faces the viewer as if to invite us in.

    The Durbar represented here is that of Kano, the capital city of Kano State, which Enwonwu visited in 1951 as part of a government commission on which he was working. The Kano Durbar is the most renowned and lavish in the country, and glimpses of the city's architecture appear throughout this scene. Moreover, the bird symbol of the Emir of Kano is just visible on the parasol which shields him from the sun on the left of the picture plane.

    Commissioned by the Nigerian government to produce a series of wood-relief panels for the recently-built Nigerian House of Representatives, the artist sought to "express Nigeria's cultural diversity by including motifs drawn from different Nigerian cultural contexts", including the predominantly Muslim north. Enwonwu thus made a trip to Kano to record the decorative traditions, festivals and people of the region, producing a number of paintings during this visit (such as the Portrait of Momodu, Kano, which appeared at auction at Bonhams on 10 March 2010) and for several years afterwards.

    BIBLIOGRAPHY:
    S. Ogbechie, Ben Enwonwu: The Making of an African Modernist, (Rochester, 2008), p.119
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