A mural of former first lady Michelle Obama painted on a Chicago building has drawn severe criticism and debate on social media.
The painting, drawn in a neighbourhood where Michelle lived as a child, apparently seemed inoffensive but sparked allegations of plagiarism against Chicago artist Chris Devins.
As soon as Devins was done painting the mural, social media users accused him of copying the artwork of artist Gelila Mesfin who had posted a strikingly similar image on her Instagram.
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Reacting to the news of the mural painting, Mesfin was surprised how someone could replicate her work and draw it as mural. "How can you just steal someone's artwork... someone's hard work and claim it like it's yours..." she said in an Instagram post.
"How can you go on record and say you designed this... this is so disheartening and so disrespectful on so many levels..." Mesfin added. "It's one thing to share or even profit from someone's work but to claim it as yours is just wrong!"
On the other hand, Devins denied of having any knowledge of Mesfin’s artwork and said he only came to know about it recently through the criticism. "I wanted a mural that would serve as an inspiration for the young ladies on Chicago's South Side and young ladies everywhere," adding that he got the idea of the mural when he saw an image on Pinterest depicting Michelle as an Egyptian queen.
Devins has now been crediting Mesfins for her work and said he was willing to give the artist the license fee for her work.
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"For me, this is a time for learning and self-reflection, not justification. Though I did not receive any funds based on Mesfin's work, I was granted money based on a socially responsible message about Black women," he said in a statement. "She has accepted my extended hand of friendship and collaboration."
As the ice between the two artists thawed, Mesfin also confirmed she had been in contact with Devins and was trying to resolve the matter in a professional way. "I only ask that everyone keep this positive towards him; I preach love, not anger or hate of any kind," she said.
The article originally appeared on CNN