Black Woman Creates Egyptian Queen Image Of Michelle Obama Which Will Serve As A New South Side Chicago Mural

Mural of Michelle Obama

One of my favorite artists on Instagram will have one of her images of Michelle Obama represented as an Egyptian Queen posted as a mural outside of Bouchet Elementary (Michelle Obama’s elementary school) two blocks from the former first lady’s childhood home.

Ethiopian-born artist Gelila Mesfin also known as @thick_east_African_girl on Instagram is known for her beautiful digital pieces where she recreates images of some of our favorite celebrities and influencers as African Queens and Kings.

Watch the piece she created of Michelle Obama:

A post shared by G? (@thick_east_african_girl) on

Then she created this one of both Michelle and Barack Obama:

A post shared by G? (@thick_east_african_girl) on

The image was originally taken by another “artist” Chis Devins who created what he called the mural project and started a Gofundme to get the image posted on the southeast corner of Chappel Avenue and 74th Street in South Shore.

According to him:

“I wanted to present her as what I think she is, so she’s clothed as an Egyptian queen. I thought that was appropriate,” Devins said Friday evening.

“The purpose of this mural is to give today’s children someone they can literally look up to and to celebrate Mrs. Obama’s life and accomplishments during the last 8 years as First Lady of the United States,” the GoFundMe stated.

The problem with his effort was that he did not credit the original artist for the piece and he took donations for the mural under the pretense that the image was his.

After Gelila Mesfin got wind of the story and what Chis Devin was doing with her original piece of art she told her followers, contacted him directly and contacted the publication that originally posted about the mural. The publication updated their story credit Gelila today.


That image was created by Ethiopian-born artist Gelila Mesfin, who posted a photo of the work to her Instagram account, @Thick_East_African_Girl, in November. After news of the mural surfaced Friday night, she criticized Devins for not reaching out, saying “this is so disheartening and so disrespectful on so many levels.”

“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!” she wrote in an Instagram post.

In an email to DNAinfo Saturday morning, Devins said that his mural was inspired by her piece.

“Our nonprofit Urban Planning Projects often include painting inspired by found images,” he wrote in a message similar to an update he posted on the GoFundMe page. “We were blown away by a wonderful image we stumbled on and only found out after the fact who the source of our inspiration was. We in no way meant to [infringe] on anyone’s creativity.”

On Twitter Saturday morning, Devins thanked Mesfin, who now lives in Rhode Island, and said he only found out her name beyond her handle after news of the mural appeared online and he said he was “not trying to take credit” for her work.

“It was sloppy,” he admitted.

In the email, 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.”

We certainly hope he will give Gelila full credit for her work and the fact that her piece will have such a prominent place on the walls just outside of Michelle Obama’s old elementary school is awesome. Great job Gelila, you have our 100% support!


  1. I’m so glad this is getting attention. As an artist, this is infuriating, and I hope the muralist does the right thing for Gelila. Though yesterday when a few of us artists were putting the story together and researching, he was very much claiming the work as his own, and only deleted his Instagram and Facebook posts after a lot of us caught on. Seems like he’s only sorry he got caught. #artthief

    • artthief indeed! Im so proud of how the community rallied around her he should be ashamed of himself.. keep putting the story together.. the more ppl talk about it the more likely she will get the credit she is due..

  2. I’m glad he apologized for not giving the queen credit for her inspirational, amazing work! Thank each one of you for being respectful and classy about the situation! May God bless each of you and keep you connected to Him for your kindness and compassion, and allow you to keep sharing your artistic expression with your fellow-man!

  3. We are all taught as small children that the act of taking or using something without permisson is stealing…. He knew what he was doing, and had absolutely no shame about it and thought he would get away with it.

    And this is the reason why he thought he could

  4. When you take something that is not yours you are stealing no one has to tell you of your crime then you profit from it well, you should be jailed ! Take him to court! Shut that son of a bitch down!

  5. Though I completely understand romanticizing Michelle Obama as a glamorous Egyptian queen, and though I understand society seems to have this whimsical idea of royalty, especially princesses, as exemplified by Disney and fictionalized folklore – does ANYBODY ever consider the REALISTIC attributes of ancient royalty?

    Whether it’s Nefertiti or Cleopatra, these queens owned slaves, engaged in brutality, engaged in sexual ownership, and were products of family lineages that engaged in incest, rape, inbreeding, war, and are the beneficiaries of oppressed people. Royal families are simply symbols of governing powers that defy democracy and freedom of the people.

    Mind you, as the human species evolves, even certain dental practices of 30 years ago seem barbaric compared to modern dentistry.

    I also get the allure of promoting women as powerful rulers and what better example than that of ancient times.

    But it would be wonderful if people reminded themselves that royalty, whether from Russia or Egypt or China or ancient Greeks and Romans – royalty by and large were often horrible people.

    Hell, most of our modern religion stems from oppressed people finding salvation in a god that condemned royal oppression.

    Does anybody read their Bible or Koran or Torah?

    So arguing over who envisioned Michelle as an ancient glamorous slave master seems to be an argument that one shouldn’t get too invested in.

    Personally, I would have painted her as a superhero instead. At least they save people and look fabulous doing it.

    And it’s odd in this entire criticism the first “artist” is ignored: the photographer.


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