I have worked for 25 years as a professional artist which is the beginning of fabulous journey. It gets interesting because it’s not about survival as an artist, it’s about trying to reconnect to different things…Sacha Jafri speaks with Tanya Banon
The Next 50: World Heritage as a source of resilience, humanity, and innovation is the theme chosen by UNESCO to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1972 World Heritage Convention. This year’s celebration encourages people to consider how we should view our relationship with and responsibility for heritage in the face of escalating global challenges.
Global Art Curator & Visionary Marcus Schaefer brings to life another ground breaking concept to exhibit Art, with one of the world’s most celebrated Artists, Sacha Jafri, at UNESCO Paris HQ. The UNESCO Headquarters Great Hall will host Sacha Jafri’s exhibition of World Heritage Sites, which will be presented as sculptures suspended from the ceiling using the fuselage from a retired Airbus A320-211 as his canvas.
This upcycling project is in line with Schaefer’s desire to exhibit art outside of the traditional Gallery Space. For many years, this aeroplane flew across the globe carrying tourists to these locations. Now, instead of being scrapped, it has a new life as one of Jafri’s twelve sculptures honouring those same locations and continuing the voyage as an enduring legacy for the cultural heritage of our planet.
Marcus Schaefer states, “Giving this aircraft – which connected the world for decades – a second life through pieces of Sacha’s Art Maze collection that have been created with the same objective, just feels like a further natural step into the right direction for me. I’ve always been passionate about touching and connecting people through art in unconventional ways. To shine a light on heritage sites around the world with this exhibition at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris is a great honour for us all.”
Through his exhibition, UAE based British artist and philanthropist Jafri aims to inspire the general public with a new meaning of the love and appreciation of our colourful and fragile world, rooted in his conviction that reflections, dialogues, empathy and collaborative efforts are needed for its conservation and for a better future for the children of our world.
Jafri, has been awarded by the UN for his humanitarian work and is regarded as one of the world’s most important living artists. Through his work, he aims to reconnect humanity to our cultural heritage, our ancestral past and the beauty that surrounds us within our natural world, as well as shine a light on the desperately needed conversations on sustainability, conservation, empathy, and compassion – his hope for a better future for our planet and all humanity. Speaking Sacha Jafri to get details on what inspires the artist to create his monumental works. Read Excerpts:
Tell us about the Art maze?
Jafri: Expanding this special collection to create more sculptural pieces onto the fuselage of an Airbus A320 has been a really exciting and meaningful process for me. Painting from the subconscious and in a deep meditative state I travelled to each place trying to capture the spirit and the soul of the site itself as well as the people that lived there; in a state of surrender, with purified intentions, aiming to tap into something greater than myself and encourage the viewer to find magic in the overfamiliar, to reconnect to themselves, each other, our creator, and ultimately to ‘The Soul of the Earth’.
With this collection I hope to inspire the reconnection of Humanity through the natural beauty that surrounds us and the Heritage Sites of our World; linking us back to our cultural & ancestral past, our more empathetic and conscious present, and our inspired and hopeful future. With this collection of our most beloved UNESCO World Heritage Sites I hope to spark an electric shock that enters our souls, creating a trigger for us to unlearn everything we thought we knew and re-learn everything through the beauty of our natural world, and the purity of the hearts, minds, and souls of our children; I am hopeful for more conscious humanity, where poignant conversations can create the real action needed for the conservation and sustainability of a reunited planet.
This project is very close to your heart, what does it mean create something that resonates with a global audience ?
I have worked for 25 years as a professional artist which is the beginning of fabulous journey. It gets interesting because it’s not about survival as an artist, it’s about trying to reconnect to different things, to make your work relevant, exciting and magical, otherwise you are merely doing things that photographers do better. We have to try and find something special in our work, in our soul, in our spirit that will really connect with in a different way.
Nowadays, particularly there is an entire machinery that works in the art world, what is the finished product, what it looks like, how it can be marketed and does it have a great story behind it, so that it can be brought into market and sold as a successful project. It involves dealers, collectors, consultants and the whole thing is made into a success and the artists loses his way and understanding of what the art is really all about.
So I rather focus on the journey itself, the process of creation. I think about what one should do as an artist, to focus on how you live your life, how you can give back and create something meaningful; it’s only then something magical can happen. One has to learn to live with grace and gratitude and say “Thank You” for the moment in time you have borrowed. You have to surrender it and give back to the community and environment with grace, you have not created it but merely borrowed that moment from the universe.
What does it mean to be an artist today ?
Jafri: I think the key to being an artist is you have to realize that you have to first surrender, so that you can focus, which means treating everyone equally, whether its king of the country or a person from the streets, they all deserve the same love and respect. To live a life of grace.
You have to keep reminding yourself that an artwork is not yours, you haven’t created it and merely borrowed it from a moment in time, and when you get that realisation it’s very beautiful thing. I think then the danger is if you engage the ego, like “Wow! Look what I did, what I made, I was amazing”; that’s when you stop living in grace, that’s when you will face an artistic block. There is no thing as a writer’s block or creator’s block, it’s just that you have stopped living a life of grace. So, I think that’s the very important thing to realise as an artist and focus on how to live your life.
How do you try and live your life?
Jafri: I have realised that my work should have some humanity, through my journey I have realised that my work is pretty average if I wasn’t connecting to a humanitarian course. Something that can help others or reconnect or unite people and inspire someone somewhere. I want my work to be beautiful and therefore I have to connect humanity somewhere and then something great happens. If you can understand on how to focus to live your life as an artist, ways to purify and question your intentions every moment, then you have got something powerful and special, because with time our intentions have become so questionable, so gender filled, so financial driven, so egoistic and all about me, that you end up becoming static.
During and after Covid, I realised, there was a beautiful window to reconnect and actually do something for the future of humanity as a conscious change, and what I realised is the power intention, that it doesn’t matter what we do or what we create, what matters is the intention we do it with.
What did you learn through your time in Africa with Nelson Mandela?
Jafri: So that’s really how it all started, I have worked with Nelson Mandela in South Africa and the Foundation, close to children and spent the last four years of his life next to him. It was an extraordinary experience and I learnt a lot. I think if we can’t remind of ourselves to live in humility, then we can become and create great things, this is what I learned from Mandela, and the other thing I leant from him is that from darkness comes the light.
You are all set to be the first artist to display his work on the moon, share with us some details?
Jafri: It’s the 50th anniversary of NASA’s landing on the moon in 1972. I was asked by them to create a work that would go up with NASA’s project to the moon, in what is actually Jeff Bezos’s rocket. The art work has to be able to sustain itself under all the weather, geographical and temperature conditions on the moon.
My reservation initially was why are we spending billions and billions of dollars on exploration into space when we really need to look after our own planet, why are we spending this ridiculous amount of money on these missions. But I realised its going to happen anyway and so I tried to make this an opportunity to give back and benefit the world. So there is this plate that has been created which can stand all the environment pressures on the moon on which is a heart with two fingers which symbolises reconnection. There will then be an NFT sale of these hearts being emitted into the metaverse and from these NFT hearts I’m hoping to raise billions of dollars to then help humanity on earth. All the proceeds of the NFT will be put to a good cause and charitable use.
There is another mission to the moon with Elon Musk where celebrated artist Jeff Koons is sending his artwork up to the moon. So really its a race, and well as much as I’d like be the first artist whose work is on the moon, we’ll just have to wait and watch.
The Art Maze was introduced earlier this year on the renowned Burj Al Arab Helipad in Dubai. Due to popular demand, the exhibition was extended, making this the longest closure in the Helipad’s history.
As part of UNESCO’s inclusive celebration of “The Next 50,” “The Art Maze World Tour,” in conjunction with UNESCO, is well under way on its epic trip to all four corners of the globe. The latest piece in The Art Maze Collection by Jafri, “Sagarmartha National Park,” was launched on Mount Everest in Kathmandu in April as part of the World Tour. It was the first painting to be unveiled on Mount Everest.
The most prestigious art galleries in the world have previously displayed Sacha Jafri’s paintings alongside those of Picasso, Warhol, Hockney, Matisse, Dali, Miro, Koons, Jacometti, Kiefer, Kandinsky, and Pollock, to name a few.
Michael Croft, Head of Office at UNESCO: “UNESCO, in partnership with The Art Maze and the unveiling of Sacha Jafri’s New Collection, reinforces its mission of promoting inclusive, interdisciplinary dialogues related to heritage conservation, sustainable tourism, and the challenges World Heritage Sites face in the context of climate change, as part of UNESCO’s ‘The Next 50’ dialogues.
It is our great pleasure to host this incredible exhibition from one of the world’s most exciting and poignant artists, Sacha Jafri, his ‘World Heritage Sites Collection’ celebrates our world and all that needs to be sustained, preserved and adored, celebrating our 50th Anniversary of the 1972 World Heritage Sites Convention here in Paris, this will help bring new eyes to UNESCO’s work and shine a light on our vision for ‘The Next 50’. We are particularly delighted to add one of Jafri’s pieces from his Heritage Site’s Collection, his stunning depiction of ‘Notre Dame’ painted on a cut fuselage from an Airbus A320, to our collection of Museum-Works; alongside Picasso, Miro, Henry Moore, and Giacometti, amongst other great Modernist Artists here at UNESCO.”