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The Most Valued Piece of Modern Nigerian Art Was Just Discovered In a London Apartment

It's being called "the most significant discovery in contemporary African art in over 50 years."

It's not everyday that a rare treasure is unearthed in a place as ordinary as an apartment, but that's precisely what happened on Tuesday when a famous 1974 painting by Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu, depicting the Ife Princess Adetutu Ademiluyi, was discovered in a "modest London flat," reports BBC Africa.

The famous painting is considered a national symbol of the end of the Biafran War, and had gone missing in 1994 after Enwonwu's death along with three other versions of "Tutu."


Enwonwu is widely considered "The Father of Nigerian Modernism," and the famous paining is now being auctioned for around 420,000 dollars (300,000 pounds), making it the highest valued piece by a modern Nigerian artist.

Celebrated Nigerian author, Ben Okri expressed the gravity of the moment, calling it "the most significant discovery in contemporary African art in over 50 years."

"It is a cause for celebration," he continued "a potentially transforming moment in the world of art."

Enwonwu was one of the first international artists to win international acclaim, and was famously commissioned to create a bronze sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II upon he visit to Nigeria in 1956.

Before stumbling upon the painting, Director of Modern Art at Bonham's in London, Giles Peppiatt, said he had been frequently asked to appraise potential Tutus," but they all turned out to be copies. Its unclear how exactly the paintings made their way to London.

"Tutu" will be auctioned on February 28 at Bonham's.

(YouTube)

The 7 Best East African Songs of the Month (July)

Featuring Nandy, Juicee Mann, Alikiba, Diamond Platnumz and more.

July featured an array of incredible releases from East Africa's pop royalty as well as promising newbies.

Follow our East African Grooves playlist on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Interview

A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

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Interview

Adekunle Gold Is Living His Best Life

We speak to the Nigerian star about how marriage and fatherhood have led him to find both newfound happiness and newfound freedom as an artist.

''I'm having the time of my life,'' says Adekunle Gold over a Zoom call while seated in his office in Lagos. ''I'm making songs that are so true to my current energy, my current vibe.'' When I got on the call with the 34-year-old artist on a Wednesday afternoon, the first thing I noticed was his hair tied up in little braids, the second was his wide smile. As we speak, the crooner laughs multiple times but it's his aura that shines through the computer screen, it lets you know better than his words that he's truly having the time of life.

Born Adekunle Kosoko, the popular Nigerian singer got married barely two years ago to fellow artist Simi. Last year, the power couple welcomed their first child. As we talk, Gold points to his journey as a father and a husband as some of the biggest inspirations at the moment not just as far as music goes but as his perspective in life and how he now approaches things.

''My [artistry] has changed a lot because being a father and being a husband has made me grow a lot and more.'' Adekunle Gold tells OkayAfrica. ''It has made me understand life a lot more too. I'm feeling more responsible for people. You know, now I have a kid to raise and I have a wife to support, to be a real man and husband and father for.'' He credits this journey with both his newfound happiness and a newfound freedom as an artist.

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The 5 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Fireboy DML, Juls, Adekunle Gold and more.