The National Portrait Gallery is to send the first known British oil portrait of a Black African Muslim and freed slave out on a British tour.
© Property of the Qatar Museums Authority / Orientalist Museum, Doha
The 1733 oil portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, by William Hoare of Bath, has been on loan from the Orientalist Museum, Dohar, Qatar since January 2011.
It will begin its tour with an opening at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool on June 29 before heading to South Shields Museum and Art Gallery and New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester.
Diallo’s story is one of the more intriguing escapades from the dark history of the international slave trade. Born into a devout aristocratic Muslim family in 1711 in Senegal West Africa, he was captured by Mandingo warriors whilst on a trading mission and sold into slavery. Ironically, Diallo’s business concerns included the trade in slaves.
Transported to America, he was sold to a plantation owner, escaped, re-captured and then discovered in gaol by an enlightened American lawyer who helped secure his passage to Britain.
In London, on account of his education, bearing and aristocratic connections, he became a celebrated member of high society and an invaluable translator of Arabic texts.
Painted by the artist William Hoare of Bath in 1733, Diallo chose to be depicted in his traditional clothing, with a Quran written in his own hand tied around his neck.
In 1734 he returned to his homeland, where he died in 1773. Diallo's memoirs were one of the earliest slave narratives and offered some valuable insights into the transatlantic slave trade.
The portrait, which had initially been thought to be lost, resurfaced some years ago and was purchased by the Qatar Museums Authority who loaned it to the National Portrait Gallery for a period of five years.
It will be on display at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool (June 29 – September 23); South Shields Museum and Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, (September 29 2012 – March 9 2013) and New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester (April 6 – June 30 2013).
Each venue will use the portrait in a different way, exploring issues of faith and identity and the experience of those affected by the transatlantic slave trade.