Yusuf Adebayo Cameron Grillo (Nigerian, born 1934) 'Hausa charms vendor'

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Lot 17
Yusuf Adebayo Cameron Grillo
(Nigerian, born 1934)
'Hausa charms vendor'
Sold for £ 43,750 (US$ 56,920) inc. premium

Lot Details
Yusuf Adebayo Cameron Grillo (Nigerian, born 1934)
'Hausa charms vendor'
signed and dated 'GRILLO/ 64' (lower left)
oil on board
91.5 x 60.5cm (36 x 23 13/16in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Purchased at the Piccadilly Gallery, London in 1965.
    Thence by direct descent to the current owners.

    Exhibited
    London, Piccadilly Gallery, Yusuf Grillo, Jimoh Akolo: two Nigerian artists as part of the Commonwealth Festival, 14 September - 2 October 1965.

    Influenced by Futurism and Cubism, Yusuf Grillo's portraits of Yoruba villagers have an architectural, planar quality. That Grillo and fellow Nigerian modernists looked to the works of European avant-garde artists is well documented. At the same time, Grillo was proud of his nationality and wished to establish a specifically Nigerian modernist aesthetic:

    "The very first thing for an artist... is to know who he or she is. You have to know where you are coming from. You have to know your roots."

    The current painting was exhibited in London in 1965, at the Piccadilly Gallery on Cork Street, one of the few occasions the artist's work was displayed in the UK. Entitled Yusuf Grillo, Jimoh Akolo: two Nigerian artists the show was held in connection with the capital's Commonwealth Festival. Organised by Ian Hunter (M.B.E), the Commonwealth Festival was a 'cultural jamboree' intended to bring together and showcase art, music and dance from the entire breadth of the Commonwealth, to celebrate the diverse cultural identities of member nations. The official Nigerian contingent was a traditional Nigerian Folk opera that was performed in London, Cardiff, Glasgow and Liverpool.

    The Hausa population are based primarily in Western Africa, their historic centre is the city of Daura in northern most Nigeria, but they also inhabit many bordering countries. Their 'Hausalands' are the legendary rural towns that are found along the traditional Hajj route that traverses the Sahara Desert. However in the last century many have migrated to the rapidly developing urban centres of Lagos and Port Harcourt.

    Due to their positioning along Islamic pilgrimage routes, the Hausa have been engaged in international trade for hundreds of years, selling gold from the Middle East for leather, food and other household items. The subject of this work depicts such a merchant, a nomadic charm seller. The figure wears the traditional Hausa uniform of the tagelmust and jalabia/ juanni robe. Charms were thought to imbue the buyer with anything from protection to good luck.

    Family records show that the original owner of this painting was actively involved in Lagos's art scene in the 1960s, visiting Grillo's studio three times in one year. During this period, Grillo was acting as Head of Art at the Yaba College of Techology in Lagos.

    Bibliography
    I. Hunter, 'The Commonwealth Arts Festival' in Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, vol. 113, no. 5108 (July, 1965) pp.605-611.
    C. Okeke-Agulu, Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonisation in Twentieth-Century Nigeria, (Durham, 2015).
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