The newest exhibition in SOPAC’s Herb + Milly Iris Gallery, Contemporary African Spirituality: Connections to New Jersey, brings together multidisciplinary art to examine the transformation of spirituality from traditional to modern.  The opening reception will be on Thursday, February 8 at 6PM on SOPAC’s second and third floor.

The exhibition’s Guest Curator Atim Annette Oton of the Calabar Gallery has selected work by African and African diaspora artists in New Jersey and the surrounding areas that explores cultural practices and themes including Rituals and Prayer, Protection, Faith and Intuition, Freedom, Power, Protest, Revolution, Justice, Celebration, and Liberation.

“This exhibition offers a distinctive perspective on African diaspora spirituality,” explains Linda Beard, SOPAC’s Education Programs Manager.  “Exploring this exhibition offers a rare opportunity to experience the world of African diaspora religions and gain a deeper understanding of their significance.  It reminds me that art has the power to transcend boundaries and offer insight into the diverse belief systems that shape our world.”

Edgie Amisial’s sculptures speak to survival, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn’s photographs document rituals and meditation on the Coney Island waterfront, and Tenjin Ikeda’s creations explore portals to the other side.  Komikka Patton’s pen and ink collages explore charms and the connections between Vodou and Catholicism.

Works by the other 12 artists in this exhibition—Elvira Clayton, Antoinette Ellis-Williams, Ricardo Osmondo Francis, Geraldine Gaines, Jay Golding, Sasha Igwe, Cassandra Martin, Mami Olufunke Morrishow, Yvonne Onque, Reginald Rousseau, and Malandela Zulu—present interpretations of what spirituality is of the past, present, and future.

Guest Curator Atim Annette Oton is a Nigerian-born, American and British-educated designer turned curator.  She is the founder and curator of the Harlem-based Calabar Gallery, which showcases contemporary African Artists and African Diaspora artists globally. Prior to that, Oton worked as the African Art Curator for Amref Health Africa ArtBall, which honored artists Wangechi Munu, El Anatsui, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Zanele Muholi; and as the curator for the Jersey City Theater Center and as Curator for Community Engagement at the Bronx: Africa exhibition at Longwood Gallery.

With Oton’s guidance and vision, Contemporary African Spirituality offers a distinct perspective on African diaspora spirituality, allowing visitors to gain a renewed appreciation for the beauty and complexity of these complex religions and perhaps even a deeper connection to their own spirituality.

SOPAC thanks its generous co-sponsor The Walsh Gallery at Seton Hall University for supporting this exhibition.