Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Profile portrait of a woman wearing a headscarf

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Lot 96*
Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E
(Nigerian, 1917-1994)
Profile portrait of a woman wearing a headscarf

Sold for £ 20,062 (US$ 25,367) inc. premium
Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994)
Profile portrait of a woman wearing a headscarf
signed and dated 'Ben Enwownwu/ 1962' (lower right)
watercolour and gouache
75 x 26cm (29 1/2 x 10 1/4in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Acquired by a US diplomat in Lagos, circa 1962.
    By direct descent.


    This painting was acquired by the previous owner whilst he was working in Lagos between 1958 and 1962. An expert on public administration and representative bureaucracy, he had been posted to Nigeria on the eve of independence to assist with the transition of power to the newly elected government.

    As a consultant of the Nigerian Government, he developed a close relationship with a number of the leading political and social figures of the day. It was at this point that he met Enwonwu, who had been appointed as cultural advisor to the government. It is likely that the current painting was purchased as a show of support for the new democratic regime, and Enwonwu's efforts to forge a unique national aesthetic.

    The woman is similar to Enwonwu's Africa Dances motif in certain respects: she is depicted in profile, emphasizing the sinuous curve of her spine. Like the Negritude paintings, the picture celebrates independent black identity through the woman's proud bearing and graceful beauty.

    However, the painting is distinct in one important respect; unlike a Negritude subject, she is not a featureless silhouette. The open mouth, the earring, the wrap of her headscarf all suggest that this is a portrait of a particular individual. Her hands are clasped behind her back - a gesture that sets her apart from the generalised figures of Africa Dances. This is not a study of the human form in motion, rather a specific likeness.
Contacts
Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu M.B.E (Nigerian, 1917-1994) Profile portrait of a woman wearing a headscarf
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