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A fine arts collaboration in aid of mental health awareness


Migal van As

During the last 18 months of one lockdown after another and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, South Africans and people across the globe have faced social isolation, financial and economic crises, social unrest and other challenges all contributing to a decline in mental health. Depression is on the increase and is becoming one of the most common challenges that nearly every person on the planet has come face to face with these past 18 months. Many people have been and continue to be affected on a psychological level by the devastation that Covid-19 has brought. Latest studies show that one third of South Africans suffer from mental illness and 75% of them won’t receive any kind of therapy or support (Source: Sunday Times).

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October 10th is World Mental Health Day and it is more relevant now than ever before, which is why local rising star and fine artist Farai Engelbrecht AKA Samurai-Farai, who has personally faced and overcome struggles with mental health conditions, has partnered with Reynold Agge, founder of ASA Magazine and Loskop – an all-female owned clothing and apparel brand, and put the spotlight on this growing, devastating issue. The collaboration will launch limited edition printed hoodies for sale to the public via the ASA website, showcasing one-of-a-kind artwork by Samurai-Farai and proceeds will be donated to SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group). The campaign’s secondary objective is to foster a healthy and constructive dialogue. South Africans are urged to share their experiences about their own and loved ones’ struggles with mental health in order to remind the nation that

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Farai, an authentic and vibrant 25 year old fine artist, has rapidly been making a name for himself in Cape Town’s arts and culture circles. He has been able to create captivating work and draws inspiration from his humble, yet colourful upbringing.

Raised by his single Afrikaans mother, following the passing of his Zimbabwean father at a young age, Farai has been using his diverse, rainbow heritage to create bold, spirited artwork which he has creatively implemented as a healing tool for his own troubled and tortured periods in his life. Farai is no stranger to the struggles of dealing with crippling mental health issues and he’s become a true illustration of what anyone can achieve by perseverance, dedication and the pursuit of joy and purpose through art.

Born in Rustenburg, he finally found his fit in the vibey, street art filled surroundings of Cape Town when he was offered a full bursary to study fine art. After completing his studies through Michaelis School of Fine Art, he set out to discover who he really was as a creative and found a new identity which he felt he had true authority over. And so his pseudonym, Samurai-Farai was born, which he sees as a separate entity entirely to Farai Engelbrecht.

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On his cubist work, Farai notes that his artwork “intends on reflecting the many emotional states one being can possess.” His characters / figures are not fictitious, “they are you and me – thus making them relatable,” he explains. Farai’s work is psychological portraiture – “of myself, society and of the viewer”. He has an unimpeded understanding of the importance of street art and how it can transcend boundaries into the fine arts world, much like the artists he finds himself influenced by like Jean Michel Basquait and Retna. According to Farai, in his more recent work, his primary focus has been around “body language and the notions of mental health as well as morality.” The Covid pandemic sparked a curiosity around the emotional, physical and mental toll and how our bodies have communicated the isolation and anxiety through images instead of words.

Farai’s recent body of work aims to narrate a personal and collective experience of isolation, despair, happiness and hopefulness. “Through the figurative and sometimes abstract expressions of the body, I hope to provoke thoughts or imaginations of the body as an archive, a library of emotion that can be read & interpreted in endless ways.”

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Fashion introduces you before you introduce yourself. Fashion adds to our individual facades. Some use fashion as a means of individual creative expression, while others copy styles and trends to fit in. Fashion – consciously or unconsciously – becomes the first layer of judgement or acceptance. It can sometimes lead to an inauthentic expression to the world, one that is misaligned with the perception of one’s authentic self.

“Chosen as a universal symbol of comfort and reassurance, a collection of uniquely numbered, limited-edition hoodies will be produced and sold in this campaign. We aim to use fashion and art as means to generate conversations among various social groups. By offering wearable art, this collaboration sheds light on more mindful approaches to detecting, understanding and dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and suicide,” say Reynold Agge of ASA.

The campaign will officially go live during the month of October and supporters will be able to get involved in the conversation and purchase their hood online. Keep an eye out online and on social media by following and using the hashtag #FACEYOURFACADE

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Migal Van As
Samurai Farai
ASA Magazine:
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