Former U.S. President Barack Obama greets artist Kehinde Wiley during the unveiling of his portrait at the Smithsonians National Portrait Gallery in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Kehinde Wiley, the painter of Obama’s portrait for the National Portrait Gallery, reimagined the story of Judith beheading Holofernes from the deuterocanonical Book of Judith as a black woman beheading a white woman years ago.
“It’s sort of a play on the ‘kill whitey’ thing,” Wiley told New York Magazine previously.
The original story tells
the tale of a young widow named Judith who steps forward to save her people by seducing and then cutting off the head of Holofernes, an Assyrian general. Countless artists have reimagined the tale, but usually feature a man and a woman. In Wiley’s version of events, Judith is a black woman who cuts off the head of a white woman.
Many of Wiley’s paintings usually envision black people at the forefront of historical events, as “the whole conversation of my work has to do with power and who has it.”
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