The 1990s brought the world a remarkable change on the international scene. The fall of the Apartheid system was one of the greatest events, and brought human rights and the question of skin colour and race to a final "breakthrough". The free election of Nelson Mandela to presidency in South Africa in 1994 was one of the most symbolic happenings in decades, and signaled a victory for human rights and dignity.

Nelson Mandela greeting a crowd in 2008. (Photo copyright Wikipedia)

Later came another signal, when Kofi Annan in 1997 was elected Secretary General of the UN, a post he held until the end of 2006. A new era had indeed begun.

The Secretary General addressing journalists in the UN Headquarters in New York 2004. (Official UN photo by Eskinder Debebe)

Being the spiritual leader of more than a billion people, the Pope is a symbol known all over the world. In the nearly 2000 year history of Papacy there have been 264 Popes - and they have the latest 1,600 years all been white. With 100 million Catholics on the African continent and some 15 cardinals, there is no longer an impossible thought that the Pope could be elected among these African cardinals. Neither is it an impossible thought that the president of the United States could be coloured. Both possibilities would have been a most important signal that the international society values people of all colours as equal.

Kolby could find no other symbol that so visually explained the thought of human equality than painting a portrait of the first coloured Pope in modern history. The artist regards "Arrangement in black, white and red" not as a painting dealing only with the Papacy, but as an archetype of all positions where a persons colour would appear problematic. On this future Pope’s letter is written; "TERTIUM MILLENNIUM ADVENIENS", (The coming of the 3rd millennium).

The election of US President Barack Obama in November 2008 was a new milestone in the fight for equal rights and possibilities for all races, and indicated that Kolby's vision could be next.

The President aboard the Air Force One in November 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

The question is when will the Vatican and the Red Princes of the Catholic Church be ready to elect a leader from an African or a South-American country? Since 1998 Kolby's painted image has spread out the world over in various media, gaining the name "The Black Pope".

The Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs displayed the painting in various embassies in Europe. For two years Kolby's Pope hung in the Norwegian embassy in Rome, where a Vatican car one day appeared with a high ranked African Cardinal wishing to see Kolby's painting.

Despite being the dream of millions of people - will the Catholic Church continue hesitating to elect a Pope from an African or South American country? After 1,600 years; when will it be time for yet another colored Pope?