ENGLISHMAN IN BENIN CITY, 1981 (Part Nineteen A)

ENGLISHMAN IN BENIN CITY, 1981 (Part Nineteen A)

Today I got this email that took me back to 1985. Listen:

“Dear Moyo,

I am sure you may not remember me but I remember you most days. My name is Donald [deleted] and, at the beginning of 1985, when I came to University of Ife as a young recent graduate from Camberwell School of Art you realised I was well out of my depth and kindly took me into your home.

I had come to Ife because I had been hugely inspired by Yoruba

sculpture in my painting but was concerned about the appropriation of African art in western art and felt that I had to put things into context. You were so kind to me but also you gave me the rigorous grounding that I needed and wanted, showing me how you lived, allowing me space to discover more about Yoruba religion and traditions and also sharing some of your ideas and writings such as your paper on the nude in Yoruba art.

My time with you was exhilarating and is etched on

my memory. Currently the buzzwords in Chelsea, which is a part of University of the Arts London, are ‘decolonising the curriculum’ and ‘decolonising art’: I am proud that I started my enquiries down this route a long time before it became fashionable and I am grateful to you for your generosity in letting me explore and understand.

I still make paintings and installations I work at Chelsea College of Arts in London. For the past 15 years, I have been Director of

Exhibitions of a gallery there called Chelsea Space working with external art and design professionals across art, design and popular culture, but the pandemic is probably putting an end to that and the time is probably right, I am desperate just to do my own thing away from institutions hence I’m using my personal email address rather than the academic one).

On a personal note, I didn’t marry until my late 30’s, I was too busy trying to be an artist, but I met a wonderful person, Sally, who has two daughters who at the time were seven and nine years old but not the eldest one, Sophie, has just had a son so I have just become a grandfather though I’m not that grand!

If you are at all interested (and I don’t expect you to be), my Instagram is [deleted].

I just started following you today.

There you can see a few images of my paintings and the odd shot of me and the family, and my latest project which are some small musical sketches.

One of the photos attached is of the ibeji [deleted] I bought when you took me to the juju market in your old cool Volkeswagon Beetle with the dodgy passenger door; they sit by my desk in my tiny studio and take me straight back to Ife whenever I want.

You may recognise the people in

the second photo…

Best wishes and big respect


Donald attaches one of the oldest photos of me. The photo was taken in 1985.

Hey, don’t be jealous of my attire. It is not Wonyosi.

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