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Artist Kehinde Wiley Makes Bold Statement With His ‘Rumors Of War’

A certain segment of the usually-chaotic New York Square was calm and composed as it awaited a big event. This event started off with a flamboyant noise as a marching band rolled into the area, made up primarily of students. They were followed by the artist and sculptor Kehinde Wiley, who was here to unveil his latest creation. As the curtain was pulled, the crows met Rumors of War for the first time.

Rumors of Wars is an equestrian portrait of a young black man riding a horse, seemingly to go to some war. He is wearing a hoodie, dreadlocks and Nike shoes. The sculpture is the quintessential representation of a young African-American. It was met by applause from the audience, which included names like curator Thelma Golden, writer Antwuan Sargent, gallerist Sean Kelly and Richmond mayor Levar Stoney.

The choice, which seems strange at first, carefully makes a bold statement. Richmond, where this statue will be eventually located, houses 10 statues of Confederate generals. The statues are some of the last ones commemorating the people who revolted against the abolishment of slavery and fought for secession. Nor are they mere symbols of the past; the statues which stand as high as 30-feet give the confederates full glory and fame. Apart from their usual infamy, the confederates are especially unpopular among the African-American community, as the former were vehement supporters of slavery.

Kehinde Wiley got the idea of making this sculpture when he was in Richmond a few years earlier and was met by tall statues of Confederate generals. Speaking about the incident, Wiley said

“What does it feel like physically to walk a public space and to have your state, your country, your nation say, ‘This is what we stand by’?” he asked the audience, exasperated. “We want more. We demand more. We creative people need to create more.”

He further added that his vision was to combine a myriad of pieces which are parts of the society and give them something to look up to. The sculpture is already acquired by Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and will soon be installed there.