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National Portrait Gallery Makes Ayuba Suleiman Diallo Appeal

The National Portrait Gallery is appealing for support to acquire William Hoare’s compelling and moving portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo (1733), thus saving from export Britain’s earliest known portrait of a black African Muslim and a freed slave.

Ayuba Suleiman Diallo is an important figure in the history of Britain and its involvement in the Transatlantic slave trade. An educated man from a family of Muslim clerics in West Africa, Diallo was taken into slavery and sent to work on a plantation in America. By his own enterprise and piety, and assisted by a series of spectacular strokes of fortune, Diallo arrived in London in 1733 where he mixed with high and intellectual society, was introduced at Court and was bought out of slavery by public subscription. Through the publication of his Memoirs in 1734, Diallo had an important and lasting impact on Britain’s understanding of West African culture, black identity and Islam. Advocates of the abolition of slavery would also later cite Diallo as a key figure when assserting the moral rights and humanity of black people.

This exceptional portrait has never been exhibited in public before. If acquired it would become a highlight of the Collection, attracting public attention as a work of aesthetic quality and historical interest. Diallo’s story of personal resilience, dignity and faith when faced with enslavement, displacement and redemption at the hands of the British is richly evoked by this sensitive portrait. The portrait will offer the opportunity to explore some of the otherwise missing black and Islamic histories in the Collection and create a more sustained sense of connected British history and identity in the displays.

The National Portrait Gallery has until 25 August 2010 to raise £554,937 to purchase the portrait and
save it from export. A large part of the money has already been secured with the generous support of the
Heritage Lottery Fund and The Art Fund.
The Gallery still needs your help in raising £100,000 to acquire this remarkable portrait for the Nation.
Please support us. To donate or for further information please contact:
Susie Holden: [email protected] or telephone 020 7312 2454
Stephanie Weissman: [email protected] or telephone 020 7321 6645

Image: Ayuba Suleiman Diallo also known as Job ben Solomon (c.1701-73)by William Hoare (c.1707-72), 1733. Photo: Christies Images Limited.

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