Now that we are in the 21st century, and the system has once again officially declared open season on
hunting the African-American man-child, closing our community's institutions, i.e., King-Drew Medical
Center [in Los Angeles, CA], on the eve of rolling back the Voting Rights Act, and convincing everyone to buy into the
illusion of inclusion, the question arises, where are the artists who still have their artistic finger
on the political pulse of the people/community? In the era of the so-called Post-Black esthetic, where
culture, ethnicity, and identity are rendered irrelevant, where are our artists continuing the tradition
of such political and social commentary artists, as Ron Griffin, Olu Osei, Masud Kordofan, Noni Olabisi
Enter Kamal Al Mansour, whose first solo exhibition titled We Cannot Forget at La Petite Gallery, answers
this question. With the exception of a few pieces, the exhibition provides a strong introduction to
Al Mansour's considerable talent. The artist has created a visual signature that skillfully merges his
(computer) graphics, and fine art backgrounds, to articulate a political posture that is not visually
overbearing. This is evident in a series of personal scale prints portraying revolutionaries and freedom
fighters throughout the Diaspora. Each portrait contains high contrast color—areas (widely used in
graphics) and visual—text relationships (used in both the graphic and fine art arenas). Together they
perform a "visual libation," i.e., Toussaint L'Ouverture, Robeson, Steve Biko, Lumumba, Che, Truth, Franz
Fanon, Machel, Fannie Lou Hamer, etc., that politically and spiritually energizes the gallery's environment.
Their "sankofatized" presence establishes an island of sacred space in the gallery. These ancestors'
collective presence reverberates the visual mantra that "We Cannot Forget"
A mixed media work on paper titled Someone Has To Pay, creates a compelling visual argument for
reparations. At the top of this vertical work hovers a bubble-like form, which according to Al Mansour is a
drop of blood. The weight and gravity pulling the bottom of the "one drop," is pregnant with imagery that
references the emotional and psychological weight of our history in this country. Images of lynchings,
enslaved Africans, the four girls bombed in a Birmingham church, and marchers down South being hosed, suggests
that our blood stream carries the collective memory of our history. Under the drop, a bust view of a young
African-American male with a "serious '60s" facial expression seems to confront and challenge the viewer.
His beaded red, black and green necklace becomes a proactive mantle for kuchichagulia (self-
determination) and taking personal responsibility for his/our liberation. In spite of this, the artist seems
to suggest, that someone needs to be held responsible and accountable (reparations) for our 350 year
disruption/interruption, and that We Cannot Forget
Al Mansour indicated that the "beauty of Black men" is celebrated in his exquisite pastel drawing titled Anointed.
The drawing establishes a place for Black men to be exalted amidst a political climate where they're continually
assaulted. It appears as though the artist took the hand/arm gestures from Alvin Alley's dance classic, Revelation,
and rotated them from their horizontal axis to a vertical axis to create a field of hands lifted in high praise.
By color coding the arms and hands according to their location and positioning, he approximates an arrangement
of "human" birds of paradise, where an image of a Black man rests. We're reminded through his use of code and
symbol, that Black men are continuously engaged in the process of spiritual ascension, while under the constant
threat of character assassination. And that, We Cannot Forget
The artist eloquently summarizes his position in his Portals Series, by suggesting that there can be no political
liberation without spiritual liberation. Al Mansour further suggests that liberation is an ongoing process of
continuous rites of passages, in which we're always accountable to the ancestors and responsible to the youth and
the unborn. For this, We Cannot Forget
Copyright © 2005 Greg Angaza Pitts