CURATED | Exhibitions at SOPAC



Mansa K. Mussa

October 1, 2014 - February 15, 2015

Herb & Milly Iris Gallery at SOPAC

The South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) unveils the latest in its rotating series of visual art exhibitions in the Herb & Milly Iris Gallery at SOPAC.  On view from October 1, 2014 – February 15, 2015, is PRECIOUS MEMORIES, an exhibit featuring photography, collage and constructs by NJ-based artist Mansa K. Mussa, and is curated by Micha Hamilton.

Kicking off the exhibition is a free reception Saturday, November 8th @ 5:00pm – 7:00pm, featuring a meet-and-greet with the artist.  The artwork on exhibit is for sale with partial proceeds supporting SOPAC.

Viewing the artwork of Mansa K. Mussa, it is apparent that he is a world traveler and global citizen. For more than four decades, rooted in the rich and varied histories of picture making and dance, Mansa trains his photogenic mind to record and explore the trove of human and cultural treasures he encounters through the medium of photography, frequently celebrating the art of dance and the connectedness of the human spirit. In further examination of his subjects and their relevance, he uses his images to illustrate his collage and shadow box work, manipulating the photographs to add greater meaning and purpose.

As a documentary photographer and former dancer, his early black and white dance imagery captures and suspends moments of performance in dramatic and rapturous displays of composition, depth, form and texture inherent in the choreography and performers. Brighter and “well-lighted” images often show many dancers as a troupe and convey the story of the performance as a whole, while high-contrast (often a single light source) imagery may focus on just a single performer or two, freezing the human form in artistic abstraction. The dancer’s figure represents the gamut of human physical, emotional and spiritual energy. Their acts of daring on the concert stage embody the forces of nature, and we see in their divine form elements of the sacred and the secular, the proud and profane, the power and passion.

Mansa’s collages and iPadology photos are kaleidoscopic explosions of color, layer and texture designed to appeal to and stimulate all five human senses. In collage he uses fields of color over which is applied dominant figures, then applies layers of secondary figures juxtaposed with small figures and objects. These creative impulses are translated into a series of tableaus with the power to alter time, release light and energy, suspend motion and redefine space. Mansa’s iPadology photographs further examine the natural and unnatural world by utilizing modern technologies in smart phone and tablet devices to create stunning images of nature and architecture wholly transformed into intricate “snowflakes” and fractals, once again providing the viewer a chance to engage the creative human spirit and it’s transformative powers.


About Mansa K. Mussa (Artist)

Mansa K. Mussa is a visual artist, arts educator, and arts consultant.  A native of Paterson, New Jersey, he has used the camera to document the unfolding of human events in the United States, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe for the past thirty-seven years.  During his career in the arts, he has worked professionally as photographer, dancer, graphic artist, writer, fabric artist, and curator. He earned a BA in Media Arts/Television Production from New Jersey City University.

He is best known as a documentary photographer and collagist, and his body of work includes: The Art of Dance; Cuba Diary: A Glimpse Inside the Hidden Republic; Ghana: An African Portrait; Eyewitness: The New South Africa; Postcards from Paris and Italy; and the historic Newark: A Day in the City Photo Documentary.  His photographs and collages have been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibits and published in several books, including the landmark Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present.

Mansa has been an instructor of photography and visual arts for thirty-three years.  He has developed a creative system for teaching art to adolescents, teens, special needs students, and adults.  He currently teaches photography, collage, wearable art, book arts, mask making, and percussion for Arts Horizons, the Newark Museum, Art for Kids, Valley Arts, and Arts Unbound.

For more information about Mansa K. Mussa, visit


About the Herb & Milly Iris Gallery at SOPAC

The Herb & Milly Iris Gallery brings contemporary art to the community, providing artists opportunities to reach new audiences. The Gallery is designed for moviegoers, theater enthusiasts, art lovers, and all citizens of South Orange alike to have an opportunity to further enrich their cultural lives. The Gallery is the impetus of SOPAC Board Member Milly Iris, a South Orange resident and arts advocate. Mrs. Iris has an extensive art collection, is an art teacher, and is the former owner/director of South Orange’s Whichcraft Gallery. Along with her late husband, Herb, Milly has been a longtime supporter of SOPAC.



Since 2006, SOPAC has been serving as a premier performing arts center in the region. SOPAC offers innovative artistic and cultural experiences for diverse audiences in an intimate, inviting environment. The multidisciplinary arts center hosts a variety of live performances, community events and education programs for all ages. To further expand its offerings, SOPAC has a partnership with the Juilliard School of Music to present Juilliard @ SOPAC – a series featuring upcoming musicians from the acclaimed conservatory. SOPAC is also a home for Seton Hall University Arts Council’s performances, including Classical Concert Series, Jazz N’ the Hall performances and Seton Hall Theatre productions. SOPAC also presents performances by its theater company in residence, Midtown Direct Rep, and its dance company in residence, Lydia Johnson Dance. For more information, visit