Michelle Obama Honored With ‘Stolen’ Image On Egyptian Queen Mural? [Opinion]

Michelle Obama looks so regal in the colorful image of her painted as an Egyptian queen in a mural overlooking the streets of her childhood. The Michelle Obama mural, which artist Chris Devins completed this week, ended up getting viral attention across the social media sites. In between the complements for it’s accuracy and beauty, there were accusations that this was a “stolen” image.

It seems people recognized this depiction of Michelle Obama done up in a South Side Chicago mural as another artist’s work. The reports note that artist Chris Devins took credit for this painting as his original work, but the person who originally created this image is artist Gelila Lila Mesfin, according to Fusion.

People across social media were quick to point out that this is an image “stolen” from another artist, as seen in the tweet below.


Devins took on this task by starting a GoFundMe campaign back in November, which raised $12,000 that he could put towards the tools of his trade. But a time-stamp found in a Twitter posting of this painting by Mesfin outdated Devins’ fundraising campaign. The time-stamp discovery is mentioned in the tweet below.


When Devins finished his Michelle Obama mural on Friday, media coverage ensued, and it didn’t take long for the Egyptian Queen Michelle to go national via news outlets and social media. The mural sits on a brick wall of a building, which is located right across the street from a school. It is also just a couple of blocks from 7436 S. Euclid Ave., which is the home where the former first lady grew up.

According to Fusion on Friday, Devins offered up comments on the mural that seemed to indicate that this was his own work, as he never credited the original artist for her work. By Saturday morning, that was blown out of the water thanks to some very astute social media users who happen to know a thing or two about art.

According to a DNAInfo, when the media talked to Devins on Friday about his depiction of Michelle Obama as an Egyptian queen, he said, “I wanted to present her [Obama] as what I think she is, so she’s clothed as an Egyptian queen. I thought that was appropriate.”

He also said that he wanted the mural to be near the school so it would give the kids someone to look up to. It was his way of celebrating Michelle Obama’s work for the last eight years while in the White House.

The original image was posted on Mesfin’s Instagram page, @Thick_East_African_Girl. Mesfin, who is an Ethiopian-born artist, got wind of her image now displayed as a mural on a Chicago apartment building, and she wasn’t happy about how this event unfolded. She posted her reaction after discovering that her artwork was being credited to another artist.

As one might expect, Mesfin was upset after seeing her work copied and not getting any credit for her original depiction of Michelle Obama as an Egyptian queen. She was upset that Devins did try to contact her or at least ask if he could use her image.

She said that seeing her work in this mural was “so disheartening and so disrespectful on so many levels.”

Mesfin also said, “I wouldn’t mind if he had given me credit or said he took the design from another artist but saying you designed it is just wrong!”

Devins, who took five days to paint this depiction of Michelle Obama, started a series of damage-control explanations. He started off by saying that the non-profit urban planning projects that he does often include “paintings inspired by found images.”

He continued by saying, “We were blown away by the wonderful image we stumbled on.”

It was “after the fact” that he was able to find who the “source of our inspiration was.” Along with describing how using other people’s work is something commonly done with his urban planning experience, he also reached out to Mesfin.

Devins said that he reached out to Mesfin, who now lives in Rhode Island, and assured her that he wasn’t trying to take credit for her original work. He said she was offered a licensing fee for the image.

While this was a rather unethical way to have her painting showcased, there may be a silver lining in this for Mesfin. Her Instagram page contains some of the most beautiful images that are in a style that is so unique that they are memorizing. She has created images of many famous celebrities in many famous poses. Check out the happy couple below.

[Featured Image by Molly Riley/AP Images]