Family’s art is on display at East Orange City Hall

Photo by Javon Ross
Yvonne Onque, center, discusses her art at the show held inside City Hall.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — East Orange Mayor Ted Green hosted a “Generational Wealth” art show at city hall on Feb. 14, displaying the work of the Onque Family for Black History Month.
The Onques played an instrumental role in the creation of the Black Lives Matter mural at Manufacture’s Village.
The family goes by the moniker “3 the art way,” which symbolizes their collective work, consisting of Yvonne Onque and her two sons Suliman and Samad Onque. The family are all natives of Newark and continue the tradition of homegrown art and culture.
The family offers a wide range of works through original gallery art, illustrations, comic books, clothing, live music and spoken word, among others. The group’s artwork reflects the renderings of the African American experience, while also conveying hidden messages behind each piece, according to Yvonne.
“Inspiration for our artwork depends on multiple things,” Yvonne said. “Pride, social issues, generational trauma are all factors that determine the emotions we will and the type of work that we create. One of my works is based on my eighth grade art teacher who inspired me early on in my life to pursue art, another piece is inspired by breastfeeding. So inspiration for my works come from a myriad
of topics and emotions.”
Yvonne, a mother of five and grandmother of eighteen, attended Arts High School but most of her art skills are self-taught. She has worked professionally as a graphic designer for more than 45 years.
“It always feels good to be appreciated,” Yvonne said. “We work together as a family, so sharing this moment with them is special. The work that we do is a family tradition that has been passed down from one generation to another.”
Samad graduated with a fine arts degree from Morgan State University and became a portrait painter, designer and muralist. He is also a co-founder of ON-Q Comics, who have created the Ratchetman and Super Sketch Painter comic series.
Suliman Onque has studied art from various mentors, including Rudy Martin, Jerry Grant, Jose Manuel Cruz and Kortez Robinson, among many others. Suliman has two quotes that he lives by as inspiration for his life and his artwork.
“My motto is if you can imagine it, I can create it artistically,” Suliman said. “My second motto is that it is not about ego, it is about how far we go. It is a collaboration we do with each other and we want to inspire other artists to do the same. There are too many artists in the world to think that you can work alone and stand out above all others. Think about how much stronger art could be if we took ego out of the equation.”
The Onque family has big aspirations for their future and where their art will go.
“I do not want to stop until I have a mural on Mars,” Suliman said. “So this is not the top, but it is an elevated step to grow higher and higher. I appreciate every move along the journey.”
East Orange Councilman Christopher Awe spoke about seeing the artwork in city hall and what it meant for the growth of East Orange as a city and a cultural hub for art.
“I feel pride and energy in seeing this work displayed here today,” Awe said. “I have always been a big proponent of bringing art to East Orange, this fills me with hope for the future that needs to be further cultivated, this is an incredibly good thing.”
Mayor Green also spoke about the artwork displayed and the importance of black art being displayed.
“Black art is visual storytelling, through images and words black artists give a voice to the
voiceless and evoke emotions that are central to the black experience in American culture,”
Green said. “Family is a central theme in this exhibition and the Onque family have created a unique body of work that exemplifies the soul of African American People.”