Born in 1959 in Los Angeles, California, Kamal amir Masiah Al Mansour graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1981, with a BA degree in political science, opting not to major in art as initially planned. In 1984, Al Mansour graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco with a Juris Doctorate degree.
In 1985, Al Mansour began his corporate career with JPL (one of the NASA Centers) where he negotiated software license agreements and technology transfers between CalTech and the Dept. of Energy. He next worked for GTE Government Systems Division (where he negotiated the deal that leveraged Air Force technology into what we know today as GPS navigation systems in automobiles. The GTE position was in Massachusetts, which is where Al Mansour founded CPTime Online and AfroLink Software. “I was sitting up late one night watching PBS, when I saw a segment on an interactive multimedia software program titled Culture, developed by a professor at Princeton University. It featured images, animation and text. What absolutely fascinated me was seeing the use of this technology, but more so that it was called Culture but did not feature anything about Kemet, or any Black people whatsoever.” It was that night in 1988, Al Mansour decided to create AfroLink Software.
Having already started research of anything and everything Black, in preparing for CPTime Online (a BBS), Al Mansour rationalized that CPTime would be a longer user adoption vs. software which was more commoditized. He leveraged the growing database he was building, as well as a graphics database of images he used in support of a number of desktop publishing engagements, as the content foundation for what would become AfroLink Software. “I started with creating storyboards of two titles I wanted to launch first — Africa Insight and Who We Are.” Africa Insight offered three core content categories: Country Profiles, Banks/Development Orgs, and Universities/Cultural Orgs. Who We Are presented “firsts” in numerous categories such as: Science/Technology, Law/Politics, General History, Arts/Entertainment, Education and Sports--formatted as interactive multiple choice for hundreds of questions with three possible answers for each (i.e, "edutainment"). It also featured famous quotes of key global figures and other content. Al Mansour knew that these two products would be the first Afrocentric interactive multimedia software programs available and would potentially have a significant impact. Al Mansour’s objective was to provide aggregated Black information as a platform to unite Black people globally. He also introduced the first Black clip art, CPTime Clip Art which would later be offered in three volumes. Other interactive titles that he later developed included: Caribbean Insight, Afri-American Insight, iMHOTep (Black health), and Pride and Purpose (a self-esteem program for elementary school).
In 1990, Al Mansour formally introduced AfroLink Software when he sent out a press release to all Black newspapers and magazines. EMERGE magazine picked up on his story and ran a one-page feature. One day out of the blue, Dr. Molefi K. Asante (esteemed scholar of Afrocentricity and chair/professor at Temple University), called and after a very short greeting asked, “what’s ready?” Al Mansour replied, “Africa Insight, Who We Are and CPTime ClipArt Vol. I”. Asante asked how much and where to send a check, and told Al Mansour to keep up the good work. This was a most fitting beginning for AfroLink.
Al Mansour would later appear in EMERGE again, Black Enterprise, Seattle Times, WSJ, Windows magazine, MacWeek magazine, Macworld magazine, and many others. He would also appear on CNN (for 2:04 minutes!), Headline News, and a few local news outlets. For four years, AfroLink sold to many schools (K-12) as well as colleges and universities, and customers throughout the US, Caribbean, Canada, Europe and West Africa. CPTime Online waned as AfroLink Software took off. You can read more about the "AfroLink" story in Black Software. The Internet and Racial Justice, From the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter, by Charlton D. McIllwain.
However, in 1995, despite a fledging and short success, rejecting numerous buyout offers, and a loyal but declining following; the World Wide Web was fast-approaching with the Netscape browser making access to information widely available. The accessibility, fluidity of data and cost model of the web made software (i.e., CD-ROM publishing) stagnant and increasingly obsolete.
In 1998, Al Mansour returned to corporate America with the experience and skill-set to leverage the impending Y2K period. Over the next few years Al Mansour would transition from corporate law to IT, and launch unVOZ.com in an attempt to repurpose AfroLink content (spec. Caribbean Insight, Africa Insight and his clip art), which included creating a line of t-shirts that featured images on the front (i.e., Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey, Toussaint L’Overture, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Che and others) and a famous (or not so famous) quote on the back, of the image on the front. The shirts and hoodies became an instant hit, creating an interactive experience esp. for images like Samora Machel and others that people weren’t aware, and then inspiring dialog once reading the quotes. Like AfroLink Software and CPTime Online, the unVOZ tees and hoodies canabalized unVOZ.com.
In 2003, Al Mansour experienced several life events that caused him to question what he should be doing with his life. In fact, while home one day his late mother called to ask him if he saw Oprah on TV. She had a former Google exec on who was pitching his book titled, What Should I Do With My Life? Al Mansour did not see the show but ordered the book. It was partly the book, but also two close relatives that passed that caused him to decide to return to his art.
Building off of the success of the unVOZ t-shirts, and leveraging the digital skills he developed running AfroLink, Al Mansour created poster art from his clip art, but he also picked up a pencil to draw, which he had not done for over 25 years. The second drawing he completed he shared with Varnette P. Honeywood (a very well-known artist who would become his mentor until her death in 2010), and while at her home one day in 2004, Dr. Samella Lewis (master artist who earned the first PhD in African-American Art History) was visiting Varnette and saw his work and suggested that Al Mansour should have a solo of his work for Black History Month in 2005. Al Mansour only had the poster art, and a handful of original works. He would spend the next 6 months creating 10 more original pieces, and sold 4 at the opening of We Cannot Forget, his first solo exhibition.
Al Mansour would go on to exhibit in 2005 and 2006 in Los Angeles, before and after relocating to Northern California. He would exhibit at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Brand 35: Borders, 35th Annual National Juried Exhibition of Works on Paper, Brand Library Art Gallery (where he won the Peggy Lund Hayek Donor Award), and other exhibitions.
In 2007, Al Mansour established himself as a Bay Area artist of note with work on exhibit during the 11th Annual The Art of Living Black (San Pablo Art Gallery, Richmond Art Center & Prescott-Joseph Center), Joyce Gordon Gallery in downtown Oakland (CA), Esteban Sabar Gallery in Oakland, and Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA).
In 2008, Al Mansour exhibited in New Power Generation 2008 at Hampton University Museum (VA), PaperWORKS! at MarinMOCA (Novato, CA), Perfect with Pixel at the Dorothy Uber Bryan Gallery at Bowling Green State University (OH), and New Visions 2008 at Pro Arts Gallery in downtown Oakland.
In the beginning of 2009, Al Mansour opened in Truth and Consequences at NoneSuch Space Gallery in downtown Oakland, marking his second solo exhibition. Truth and Consequences was reviewed in Artweek magazine in April 2009. Later in 2009, Al Mansour exhibited work in the 22nd September Competition at the Alexandria Museum of Art in Louisiana.
At the start of 2010, Al Mansour was in another solo exhibition, Connected, at Tennessee State University’s Hiram Van Gordon Gallery in Nashville, followed by a group exhibition, the XXVI Biennial Exhibition, at the LaGrange Art Museum in Georgia.
Fela (see, Works) was on exhibit in the 25th International Juried Show, Silver Anniversary, at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey (Summit), which opened January 14th, 2011. Relevance, Al Mansour’s fourth solo exhibition, opened January 17th at the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee). On February 6th Al Mansour opened in Made in America: An African American Fine Art Perspective at eVolve the Gallery (Sacramento, CA), featuring 29 other artists from across the country.
In April 2011, Al Mansour joined Catherine Kelleghan Gallery (CKG) in Atlanta, GA, as well as CKG’s sister gallery, Acacia Fine Art. Acacia Fine Art specialized in fine works of art by artists of African descent. Both galleries were located on East Paces Ferry in Atlanta.
In June 2012, Al Mansour participated in the 2012 Summer National Juried Exhibition at MarinMOCA (Novato, CA) where he received an Honorable Mention for Leave No One Behind . . . And later in 2012, in October, Al Mansour participated in New Power Generation 2012: A National Juried Exhibition at Hampton University Museum (Hampton, VA), where he received the Dr. John T. Biggers Drawing Award for Crop Forecast Down . . . Still No $eeds to Sow and the Museum Purchase Award for Leave No One Behind . . . which is now part of the permanent collection at Hampton.
Earlier in 2013, Al Mansour left the Catherine Kelleghan Gallery/Acacia Fine Art in Atlant. In April 2013, Al Mansour participated in a group exhibition, Historical Commentaries, at the College of New Rochelle's Castle Gallery in New York. Historical Commentaries closed in June. Later in 2013, Al Mansour participated in two other group exhibitions. The first, Post Racial U.S.? at the New Mexico State University Art Gallery, and the other, The FL3TCH3R Exhibition of Socially & Politically Engaged Art at the Tipton Gallery (Johnson City, TN) in association with East Tennessee State University. Al Mansour received an Honorable Mention Award for New World Order #3: Human Mined (Privacy Rights Transformed).
Al Mansour began 2014 in a group exhibition, I Have A Dream, at the Dianne Kidd Gallery at Tiffin University (Tiffin, OH).
Later in 2014, Al Mansour participated in a group exhibition, A Commemoration of the Civil Rights Movement: 1964 - 1968, at The Arts Center Gallery of Delaware State University.
The following year, 2015, Al Mansour spent upgrading his digital studio and improving his workspace in a new artist studio in San Jose, California (for the prior 10 years, Al Mansour worked out of a home studio in Fremont, California). The year was spent developing new concepts, reworking existing concepts, and improving his creative process.
Al Mansour began 2016 in a group exhibition, What does #Blacklivesmater mean to you?, at Gallery 51, MCLA (Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts) in North Adams, MA. Later in 2016, Al Mansour had one piece (American Profile No. 3: Prison-Industrial Complex)in the Gutfreund Cornett Art exhibition Social Justice: It Happens to One, It Happens to All at the St. Mary’s College Museum of Art.
Al Mansour began 2017, returning to Vanderbilt University in a solo exhibition, Beauty for Ashes, Collage and Assemblage by Kamal Al Mansour, as part of Revolutionizing our American Myth . . . Justice and Democracy?, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration at Vanderbilt's Black Cultural Center (BCC). Beauty for Ashes opened January 16th and ran until February 24th. In February, Al Mansour opened in a group exhibition, Incarceration, at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA), which ran from February 4th thru March 11th. On exhibit was American Profile #3: Prison-Industrial Complex, (see, Works) which was in several exhibitions in 2016. Al Mansour's next exhibition was Create/Change at the Hillyer Art Space in Washington, DC. This group exhibition opened on August 4th and ran until August 27th. On exhibit was What Did We Do To Be So Black And Blue?! and New World Order No. 3: Human Mined (Privacy Rights Transformed).
In 2018, Al Mansour had two pieces on exhibit in Brand 46: Works on Paper, the 46th Annual National Juried Exhibition. This exhibition marked 12 years since Al Mansour showed at the Brand Libraries & Art Center in Glendale, California. The two works were: New World Order #2: Classes and Masses and Altered State(s) (see, Works). Al Mansour received the Juror's Award from Edward Goldman (Huffington Post, KCRW & NPR Art Critic) for Altered State(s).
Al Mansour closed out 2019 with three significant exhibitions. Al Mansour's Patriot Act, Art. II was on exhibit in Exploring Aspects of War In and Through the Visual Arts, at Northern Illinois University Art Museum in DeKalb, IL, and then he showed in The FL3TCH3R Exhibition of Socially & Politically Engaged Art at the Reece Museum at East Tennessee State University (Johnson City, TN) where he won the Award of Merit from juror Sue Coe for Just-us in America. He then finished the year with Inventing Souls #3 in REDEMPTION Is there a Moral Economy? at Skye Gallery in Providence, Rhode Island.
Al Mansour began the new decade with a solo, Art is the Weapon, at the Peninsula Museum of Art in Burlingame, CA from January 22nd through April, when the COVID-19 pandemic closed the exhibition. He had 11 pieces on exhibit, incl. Enter the Dragon, Patriot Act, Art. I and II, Fela, Altered State(s), American Profile #3: Prison-Industrial Complex and other work.
Al Mansour, however, did not sit still during the pandemic pause. He introduced a new series focused on Afrofuturism, entitled, AI (Gen 1), with three versions for this first generation. He plans on three generations with three new versions per generation. He has also completed his first book that he started in 2018. His newly founded artGriot Publishing has published, Divine Consciousness: From a Dystopian Diaspora to Afrofuturism, just released on hardcover, paperback and ebook. Other new artwork coming out soon includes completion of the New World Order series. Al Mansour is also considering several online exhibitions to be announced soon, and will exhibit in Storied References at the Northern Illinois University Art Museum opening January 12th, 2021.
Al Mansour's early career as the founder and president of AfroLink® Software, continues to strongly influence his aesthetic and thematic approach — a rich graphic interface and engaging, interactive content.
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