Ben Enwonwu's 'Tutu' painting found after decades
A famous Nigerian painting that has been missing for decades has finally been found in a London home and will be up for auction at the end of the month.
"Tutu" is part of a set of three paintings created by Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu around 1973, just a few years after Nigeria's bloody civil war ended.
The story goes that Enwonwu was walking in the Nigerian countryside when he met a beautiful young woman whom he just had to paint, according to Bonhams auction house in London. Her name is Adetutu Ademiluyi, abbreviated as Tutu, and she was a princess in her city of Ife in south-western Nigeria.
Enwonwu painted two other versions of the woman but all three were lost.
The paintings gained fame not only for their beauty but also for their disappearance. The discovery is partly thanks to the efforts of Giles Peppiatt, Director of African art at Bonhams, who for years made it his mission to find the paintings. People brought him prints many times but they all turned out to be fake, until one day in December 2017, he finally found the real thing.
After receiving a tip, Giles made a visit to a modest apartment in north London and discovered the painting had been hanging there for the last 30 years. Giles said, "I was absolutely staggered when I first saw the piece. The owners, who had inherited it, had no idea of its current value," according to Bonhams.
"On discovering the long-missing work," continued Peppiatt, "I felt a little like Howard Carter peering into Tutankhamen's tomb. When Carter was asked by Lord Carnarvon 'What can you see?', Carter replied 'Wonderful things... Wonderful things.' And so it was for me on that dark December night."
Bonhams plans to put the "Tutu" up for auction on February 28. It's still unknown where the other two paintings are.