A striking mural of Michelle Obama as an Egyptian queen went up Friday in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood, but there’s just one problem. The male artist who crowdfunded the mural and initially took credit for the image, Chris Devins, seems to have plagiarized the image from an artist named Gelila Lila Mesfin. Mesfin, who goes by the username @thick_east_african_girl on Instagram, posted photos of her painting back in late October.
Devins, who raised almost $12,000 on GoFundMe, told DNAinfo, “I wanted to present her as what I think she is, so she’s clothed as an Egyptian queen. I thought that was appropriate.” Things quickly began to unravel when those familiar with Mesfin’s work pointed out the uncanny similarity. Mesfin posted a message on Instagram yesterday calling out Devins.
DNAinfo updated its story with information from an email from Devins, reporting that “he said he has reached out to Mesfin, ‘who has been offered a licensing fee, and that we did not intend to claim authorship, only inspiration.’”
Last night, Mesfin posted on Instagram, “I have been in contact with Chris Devins in hopes of resolving this issue in an applicable and professional manner, and from my Instagram family, I only ask that everyone keep this positive towards him. I preach love, not anger or hate of any kind.”