Smart Art Spaces

West Orange Arts Council Member Maria Estrela

A Tropical Treasure Chest of Cabo Verdean Art; Influenced by the Island of Cabo Verde

See this Art Exhibit in the Diverse Ethnic Community of Ironbound, Newark, NJ.

Through the pathways of art, we can explore and learn more about the culture and people of the tropical islands known as Cabo Verde off the west coast of Africa.

This Art Exhibit is a great way to learn about the beautiful group of small islands off the coast of West Africa, specifically the tropical island country known as Cabo Verde, or the Republic of Cape Verde. Cabo Verde is a historical and unspoiled archipelago or group of islands located almost 300 miles off the coast of Africa (Senegal) with some of the best beaches in the world. The exhibit’s timing was strategic, as it coincided with the celebration of Cape Verde’s Independence Day, recognized on July 5, 1975, after centuries of being a colony under Portugal since 1460.

Maria Estrela Art Show


The Terra Lonji (Faraway Land) Exhibition, presented by two sisters- collage/mixed-media artist Maria Luis Estrela and painter Ana Coelho Luis, is a tropical treasure chest of Cape Verdean art, history, and culture. The art display is currently housed in an unexpected art gallery at the Prospect Firehouse, located on 56 Prospect Street, across from the Sport Club Português in the Ironbound Neighborhood of Newark, NJ.

The sisters’ formative memories of Cape Verde, which was a former colony of Portugal, fuel this colorful display. The exhibit is anchored by the respectful artistic representations of “Queen of Morna,” (award-winning Cape Verdean singer songwriter Cesária Évora) and “Cabral Lives” (anti-colonial leader Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral).

Their parents had a connection to the little Cape Verdean islands of Sao Vicente and Santo Antao, not too far from the touristy and popular Sal and port of Santa Maria. The treasures and traditions of the islands are tastefully represented by Estrela’s mixed media collages and Luis’ paintings of everyday island life.

Assembling this exhibit was a cross continental collaboration, Estrela working from New Jersey and Luis shipping her pieces from The Netherlands.

“The work of Terra Lonji has been growing in my spirit for the past several years. The unknown stories of my family history and many questions about the customs, traditions and styles are still very unclear to me. This exhibition is a way to reclaim and pay homage to my African heritage,” states artist Maria Luis Estrela in the exhibit’s press release.

Ana Coelho Luis added, “The process of creating these pieces allowed me to relive joyful moments from my childhood, like our traditional foods and the games we played at that time. Simultaneously, this process brought to the surface the complex emotions I experienced as a young person witnessing the difficult labor and challenges of my family and others and knowing what our people have gone through.”

Maria Estrela was born in Cascais, Portugal, and was raised in a large extended family from Cabo Verde, West Africa. She settled in Newark, NJ in 2002. Maria attended The Newark School of the Arts in 2008, where she was able to further develop, explore and broaden her interest in various art forms, and digital photography.

Maria Estrela is an active contributor to the Valley Arts District of West Orange, NJ, and the Newark Arts Council in Newark, NJ. Maria regularly serves as a Curator for the art galleries at The West Orange Arts Center.

Maria Estrela served as Bloomfield, NJ’s former Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs Advisor. Maria Estrela is also involved in Newark Arts and has chaired for art exhibits in Newark, NJ, Bloomfield, NJ, and at the West Orange Arts Center located in West Orange, NJ. She also actively hosts and teaches art and collage workshops for various communities.

“The arts have a way of helping create a space where everyone feels welcome and has a voice,” Maria said.

The primary goal of the West Orange Arts Council is to cultivate, inspire and support the art and culture within local communities. Maria Estrela is a strong participant and influencer in the many enrichment programs and events conducted at the West Orange Arts Center. Maria Estrela has made her art available to be viewed by everyone in our community. Maria has taken on many leadership roles and assisted in the many art and cultural events designed to inspire creativity and inspiration for all ages.


Their work has not gone unnoticed. The Terra Lonji Exhibit is supported by Mayor Ras J. Baraka of Newark, NJ. Estrela has received a Certificate of Citizen Recognition for Exemplary Community Leadership by Newark Deputy Mayor Ligia DeFreitas, Office of the Mayor, International Relations, and Diaspora Affairs.

Smart Art Spaces encourages all to see this exhibit and a slice of island life in Newark, NJ before it travels to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, this fall.

If you or someone you know is interested in procuring any of the artwork in this show, contact John or Patricia by emailing them here.

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