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A Portrait of Humanity: The Compelling Story of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo

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The life of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, from modern-day Senegal, reveals some of the startling and uncomfortable truths behind the historic slave trade.

Cultural historian Gus Casely-Hayford examines the intriguing portrait of Diallo, which was painted by William Hoare in 1733 and currently hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London. The depiction of this gentle and educated African Muslim convinced many people in Britain at the time of the inhumanity of slavery. It was an important piece of abolitionist propaganda and reminds us of the complex demography of eighteenth century Britain.

Yet Diallo's life is also one that contains moral contradictions and twists. Where was Diallo from and why does his story matter?

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British historian Gus Casely-Hayford writes, lectures and broadcasts widely on African culture. He is a research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London and a member of its Centre of African Studies Council. He also sits on the Board of the Caine Prize for African literature.

Born in London, Casely-Hayford was educated at SOAS, where he received his doctorate in African history and was later awarded an honorary fellowship. As director of 'Africa 05', he organized the largest African arts season in Britain with more than 150 venues hosting 1,000 events.

He has presented two series of The Lost Kingdoms of Africa for the BBC and wrote the companion book (2012). In 2017 Casely-Hayford wrote and presented a six-part television series for Sky Arts called Tate Britain: Great British Walks. He also advised on a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet, worked on a British Library exhibition about the African intellectual tradition and consulted on Tate Britain's 'Artist and Empire' exhibition. In the same year he delivered a Ted Global Talk on pre-colonial Africa.

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