Ben Okri on Diallo

Diallo’s Testament

Inspired by the enigmatic story of Diallo, and his relevance today, Ben Okri’s new poem ‘Diallo’s Testament’ explores the moving and sometimes uncomfortable story of one man’s involvement on both sides of the slave trade.  Okri discussed the painting and its impact with audiences at the National Portrait Gallery and its regional partners in Liverpool, South Shields and Leicester.  His poem reflects this journey of discovery into the intriguing story of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo.

Ben Okri

Ben Okri was born in Nigeria in 1959, and now lives in England. At once a poet, a fiction writer and an essayist, he is best known for his novel The Famished Road, for which he won the Booker Prize in 1991. Star Book, a novel dealing with the subject of the slave trade and art, was published by 2007. His latest book of fiction is entitled Tales of Freedom (2009), and a collection of essays, A Time for New Dreams, was published in 2011. His latest volume of poems ‘Wild’ was published in 2012. 

This display is part of a touring project in partnership with the International Museum of Slavery, Liverpool, South Shields Museum and Art Gallery and New Walk Museum & Art Gallery in Leicester. The tour and display have been made possible by the generous support of the Qatar Museums Authority, Thomson Reuters and individual Gallery supporters.


Diallo’s Testament

Ben Okri reads his sonnet, written as a response to the portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo.  


In Conversation: Dr Lucy Peltz and Ben Okri

Dr Lucy Peltz, Eighteenth Century Curator, talks with Ben Okri about Ayuba Suleiman Diallo and how this portrait has inspired his own and other participant's creative responses.