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Our History

Founder and Executive Soraya Sheppard, being an exile, made a personal promise to Nelson Mandela on his first visit to the Unites States on June 25th, 1990 in Washington DC, to do something to help her native country. This promise was set in motion in 2011, twenty-one years later when Ms. Sheppard, anti-apartheid activist, returned to South Africa where she spent a year doing research. What she discovered was an art community filled with exploitation and, racism and she knew she had found her calling. Ms. Sheppard founded CMAFA in 2012 and in 2017 applied for and received nonprofit status. CMAFA is based out of Rogers Park in Chicago and has established strong relationships within the neighborhood. The organization aims to create an understanding of the African continent through art exhibitions and collaborative engagements with other arts organization.

Examples are:

–    Bringing 14 artists to exhibit at the Harlem Fine Arts Show 2018

–  Collaborating with Africa International House; a 31-year-old arts organization on Chicago’s Southside, to exhibit art by contemporary South African artists in their annual African Arts Festival. With much media attention Ms. Sheppard was acknowledged by then Rahm Emanuel and received a Resolution for her work.

–   An invitation from former Alderman Joe Moore, Ms. Sheppard of CMAFA along with South African Artist Jabu, hosted an art exhibition from works by apartheid artists. (They also sat on a panel discussion to highlight the importance of voting during the primaries where South Africans of color were denied that right and how it was illegal for black people in South Africa to create art.) Jabu was a victim of incarceration for creating images of Nelson Mandela during that time. He now lives in the US.

–   CMAFA has collaborated with the New York based art organization called Harlem Fine Arts in their annual touring show. In 2018,

–    With the support of the South African government, CMFA was able to bring 12 female artists from South Africa to exhibit in the Harlem Fine Arts.

With the support of the Department of Arts and Culture in South Africa, and the Department of Trade and Industry South Africa, this resulted in funding projects like

CMAFA was established to help strengthen our intercontinental presence and mission.

CMAFA through the Years

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