“This is a piece about the American and the Senegalese coming together.” – Mickalene Thomas
Mickalene Thomas was commissioned to create an exterior mural for the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, starting in 2014. While researching the project in country, she was struck by the beauty of both the urban and natural landscape of the area. She was especially inspired by its markets, the beach, the buildings, native trees and plants, and boats, which she photographed and used as inspiration in her piece.
After being awarded the commission and having the chance to visit Dakar, Thomas thought about how to use the concept of cultural diplomacy to inspire her work. Collaboration and inclusion were key to the project. She welcomed the idea of working with other artists, understanding the commission would be strengthened by collaborating with Senegalese artists. She viewed this as an opportunity to create an artistic dialogue that represents the spirit of cross-cultural diplomacy.
A Senegalese artist, Piniang, was asked to contributed his abstracted drawings to sections of the mural. Thomas and Piniang worked for several months on the final version of the mural and ultimately, Stephen Miotto (fabricator) incorporated Piniang’s work into the mosaic.