Kehinde Wiley

A Maze of Power – Dakar

The Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar is hosting the exhibition Kehinde Wiley – A maze of power, originally organised by the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac.

From May 15 to June 30, 2024

It was as a result of the election of Barack Obama in 2008 that Kehinde Wiley began to ponder the question of presidential leadership. In 2012, the American artist, whose work reinterprets representations of power and prestige in the history of portrait painting, imagined an original series dedicated to African heads of state. For the next ten years, he travelled the continent to meet them. With each of them, he has explored the history of aristocratic, royal and military portraiture in 17th – 18th and 19th-century Europe, to create a composition that illustrates each leader’s singular view of what it means to be a contemporary African leader.

The portraits reflect the distinctive cultural elements of each state, revealing an individual’s identity through the dual prism of the artist and his model. These monumental paintings lay bare the contours of ego, the diversity of possibilities in terms of taste and discernment, and the various communication strategies involved in building a personal and public image.



Portrait of Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President of Nigeria


The artist

Born in 1977 in Los Angeles, Kehinde Wiley lives and works in New York. Examining issues of racial and sexual identity, his works create collisions where art history and street culture come face to face. The artist makes eroticised heroes of the invisible, those traditionally banished from representations of power. His work reinterprets the vocabulary of power and prestige, part politically-charged critique, part an avowed fascination with the luxury and bombast of Western symbols of male domination.

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