Independent artist/curator and art dealer Samurai Farai (real name Farai Engelbrecht) is a power that is set on bringing in a change within the art scene found in South Africa, and beyond. His story, which contains a vast number of experiences that deal with love, loss and introspection, is one that has organically placed him at the forefront of visual/street artists who are knowingly or unknowingly developing the art world in our country. And, as one out of the four protagonists who are part of BULLDOG Gin’s inspirational #BEGINBOLD digital storytelling series that champions the entrepreneurial attitude towards life, we were lucky enough to be given a chance to chat with Samurai Farai. We used this opportunity as a means of exploring how he has managed to not only stay true to his authentic self, but also how his experiences have allowed him to break away from the routines, and begin a new, passionate venture that is still defining him.
My first question is based on all the good things that seem to be happening to you. You seem to be in a good space creatively. I have to find out… What goes through your head when you just look at how far you’ve come?
I think the first thing that comes to my head is the grind of where I first started and what it took for me to get here. Going through the process of studying at UCT, and just slaving my life away as a waiter for like four or five days a week, while studying, because I needed to pay rent… And now I’m in a place in my life where I can look back and see how important it was for me to learn how to work hard and be humble. I want to have used my life to do what I love, you know – my passion – and not work for anyone else.
Damn… So, what kept you going all these years? I know that family played a huge role in terms of a support structure, and your love for art in general also played a huge role. But I mean, outside of that, what can you say was that ‘north star’ that kept you going in the right direction?
I think it’s the fact that I’ve always felt really unique. I always felt special, and I always knew the specific metrics that I wanted to share, and what motivated me to do that… that no one else around me was trying to do the creativity that I came up with… And with that, I watched, you know; I realised where you didn’t need creativity to instigate significant change. It was always something that was self-serving or clout-based, like actually share a positive message to the world, and like really reverberate with the youth… So that, for me, was when I realised that people weren’t speaking to the kids and saying that they can do it too. And I wanted to make sure that I did it first.
Hmm… I’m interested to find out what your art does for you because, as the consumers or as the people, we experience your art by interacting with it or just viewing it, and receiving something out of that experience, right? But, when you look at the end results as the first person to experience it, how does it influence you?
That’s a great question! Wow. It’s funny. I’m actually thinking right now, as I speak to you… I’m creating objects of creativity. It just shows me it’s an articulation of what actually goes on in my brain. It’s kind of normal. It makes me feel like I’m not crazy. Like the way that my brain works and the way that my imagination works can actually be articulated in a visual form. So, I think what the artworks do for me is show me the power of imagination… I’m sitting around like 12 paintings right now and they are an interpretation of my experiences in this life. I’m just so grateful that I’m able to use what happens in my brain and put it out in the world and actually inspire people. They (the artworks) really motivate me and help me deal with my own mental health – my own mental health issues – and that is an amazing way for me to share pieces of myself, but it also shows me I can use these artworks to create inspiration.
Yo, that’s dope. So, let’s talk about the #BEGINBOLD campaign with BULLDOG Gin. It’s an amazing and inspirational digital storytelling campaign that you’re a part of… What gravitated you towards being a part of it?
I think for the longest time – I’ve been doing art for eight years – I never really got any acknowledgments I felt that I deserved. I felt like, you know, to say the least, I was always really slept on, and that people never really saw, or even bothered asking me about, my creativity. So, when BULLDOG approached me and said, “We’re doing this campaign focusing on some of life’s ground-breaking creatives in the country and we’d like for you to be one of them,” I think it seemed really attractive to me because I was like, okay, this is going to be a platform for me to actually spread my story and my background to the world, you know? This is going to be an opportunity for me to actually present myself physically to the country and the youth on this platform, and that’s why it was attractive to me because, when they told me about the people who were involved, I was like, wow, okay, I get to be on the same stage as these amazing creators.
And what’s that going to show for me? In fact, I am worthy to be on that stage. So, I am one of the deep ground-breaking individuals of our generation. And to have that opportunity was just an amazing achievement, because I actually don’t care if you pay me or not. I just want people to know my story. I want people to understand how hard I work; get people to understand what my creativity means to me and why I am putting it out into the world.
The relationships that I’ve cultivated through this campaign, and the collaborations that are coming out, are a natural aspect of what this campaign has done for me..
And can you highlight the best part of being a part of it so far? You know, what have you gotten out of it beyond just the exposure, and what moments through it all would you consider as a well-valued experience?
I think, for me, it’s the people I’ve met through the campaign and having the opportunity to be recognised, you know? People start to look at you very differently when you get acknowledged. So, the relationships that I’ve cultivated through this campaign, and the collaborations that are coming out, are a natural aspect of what this campaign has done for me… And just the relationships that I cultivated during this are, I think, some of the most attractive things about this campaign.
And then, just to wrap it up… What’s the ultimate vision here, or your ultimate goal with the art? The purpose or the message behind this? I guess the promised land that you’re putting all this work into to reach?
Man, it’s not really about the end goal; it’s a lot about the process – the same way as I look at my art. I don’t really focus on what it’s going to look like at the end, I really focus on what I feel and what I experience while I do it. What I think with this whole trajectory of my career is to pave the way to show the young South Africans – the black kids – that their creativity, and something that can actually be a career, should be something that can generate enough income for them to live off. And you don’t actually have to live in a box that society puts you in. And you know, when I say that I have these ideas of, you know, one day somehow creating an art curriculum that would be in high schools all over South Africa… I think about being one of the people in a textbook. I’m in Cape Town with my own gallery space that redefines the conventions of a gallery. So, what we do is, we take on emerging Capetonian artists. We don’t take 50% commission like other galleries. Every single artist comes with the concept. But I also agree that, for me, it’s really the knowledge dissemination – sharing what I’ve learnt as an independent creative, gallery owner and art dealer with the people who I see potential in.
BULLDOG Gin is available in 750ml and has a suggested RSP of R339,99. BULLDOG London Dry Gin is sociable, and best enjoyed when drinking responsibly. To discover more about how BULLDOG is supporting Bold Beginnings, search #BEGINBOLD and follow @BULLDOG_Gin.