Mansa, born in Miami, is a product of Miami-Dade’s magnet programs. Home was a very different place than school. At home in the early 80’s he watched as his stepfather grappled with crack addiction. In school Mansa began to navigate the dichotomy of these two worlds. He began to use Art as a place to question these contradictions around him. Though he graduated from the esteemed New World School of the Arts, Mansa still had to avoid the ever-present temptations of gangs and drugs. Despite watching a number of his friends dabble in the drug trade, some even falling to gun violence along the way, the temptation to follow in this illicit life path for Mansa was real.
After battling depression following the death of his mother, Mansa again looked to painting. He explored auto-biographical tropes in his Mother/Son series. Logically, Mansa began to explore his relationship with his father in his work. It seemed painting was becoming his saving grace. Looking at his own life Mansa saw that through Art he had been able to accomplish more than his peers around him; namely, he had managed to graduate college and avoid the label of felon, two things his siblings had been unable to achieve.
As Mansa questioned the relationships between Sons and Fathers and ideas behind the worship of ‘the hustler’ in hip-hop’s urban culture, he was able to draw closer to his brothers and father. This was a fleeting joy. Unfortunately on Easter Sunday, Mansa would lose his father to cancer as well. Mansa received his notice of acceptance to Yale the night before his father’s funeral.
My Big Black AmericaApril 19 - May 16th, 2015