(Editor's note: At the time this post was made, the allegations of sexual assault against Mr. Wiley by Ghanian artist Joseph Awuah-Darko had yet to be released. We are aware of the ongoing story and Mr. Wiley's subsequent denials posted to his own Instagram account.) 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.

Kehinde Wiley: A Maze of Power is on view at The Musée des Civilisations noires (Museum of Black Civilizations) in Dakar, Senegal.