Ex-Slave's Portrait Is Staying In The UK

Portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo also known as Job ben Solomon (c.1701-73)

The first British portrait of a freed slave will remain in the UK for the next five years. William Hoare's painting of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo was purchased by the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) in 2009 which caused concern to many in the Britain art community. The British government imposed a temporary export bar last year because of its historic importance to the UK. With the government and other private people trying to raise money to by the piece back, the QMA agreed to lend it instead to galleries. The painting is believed to be the earliest known British oil portrait of a freed slave, a African Muslim who had gained equal status in society.

Ayuba's memoirs were published as one of the earliest slave narratives, that is, a first-person account of the slave trade, in Thomas Bluett's Some Memories of the Life of Job, the Son of the Solomon High Priest of Boonda in Africa; Who was a Slave about two Years in Maryland; and afterwards being brought to England, was set free, and sent to his native Land in the Year 1734.

Diallo had been an educated man from a family of Muslim Clerics. At the age of 29 he was captured and enslaved and travelled to the North America. He was found in Maryland by Thomas Bluett who realized that he was an educated man who could write Arabic and brought him to England. He was introduced to Society and met Sir Hans Sloan and the King. He was freed shortly after due to public reaction and his profound background. At the time of the portrait, he was being regular individual in the the UK prior to returning home to West Africa.

ArtDaniel Kawah