Sacha Jafri’s mother thought he was clinically insane. His father was convinced he was a genius. One of them was right.
As a biracial child growing up on the fringes of the UK, Jafri relied on a scholarship to enter Eton – not to mention that the wealth generated by his great-great-grandfather who was a Maharaja in India has in somehow disappeared in a few generations – where he studied. with Prince William. As Jafri adds, he was severely dyslexic at the time. “The Dyslexia Officer for Europe chose three people from around the world to do a case study, and I was one of them.” She found that her normal IQ was so low that it could not be traced. However, his social IQ was over 200 and also couldn’t be plotted on a graph. “She said, ‘One of the threads of your brain is in the wrong place. You shouldn’t really be able to exist in this world, because these two parts of the brain don’t connect ”.”
Due to dyslexia, Jafri says he was bullied and couldn’t really fit in. When Eton’s manager summoned his parents – that’s when they presented two radically different reactions to their son’s condition – he also offered the keys to Jafri at a porter’s cabin that was said to be exclusively his. and filled with paint, canvas and an easel. He was allowed to do whatever he wanted there, as long as he could make it to all of his other classes. This aroused real interest and the start of his work as an artist. “I then went to Oxford University and got a Masters degree from Oxford, scoring a brace first.”
Over the past two and a half decades, Jafri has had a prolific career in the art world. But he’s also the one he desperately tried to get as far away from his traditional traps as possible. “The art world is full of absurdities. It is full of smoke and mirrors, manipulation, lies, dishonesty and corruption. Art is seen as that commodity, which is traded, heavily manipulated, and things are hidden so that the value can increase. If you shock people, you get them to talk about something for a while. You place a high value on it and sell it. People talk about it, but it doesn’t last long. It lasts two months, three months – if you’re Damien Hirst, you could get by for a few years, ”Jafri says.
This is the main reason why the Dubai-based artist chose to remain independent and never signed with a gallery throughout his career. “I want to choose who owns my work. I say no to 90%. 100 of the people who want to buy my work, because I don’t want it to be put in a safe and then sold five years later to make money. That’s all I’m completely against.
Strict control over the sale of his art in no way prevented him from becoming a much sought-after artist whose paintings regularly sell for millions and whose collectors include Barack Obama, Madonna, Bill Gates and George Clooney. It was actually a trip with Clooney to Darfur in 2004 while filming Clooney’s documentary Sand and Sorrow that put the artist on a mission to use the proceeds of his work for charity. He has visited over 42 refugee camps around the world and raised over $ 60 million for charity in recent years – although he has now raised the stakes even more with his latest works of art. .
For seven months, from March to September of last year, when much of Dubai was in various stages of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Jafri took over the Atlantis Hotel ballroom. – The Palm in Dubai to paint the largest canvas in the world. .
This painting, called The Journey of Humanity, spread over 17,600 square feet, was an idea that was made by children around the world. Jafri’s team asked the children to send in their paintings around the themes of isolation and connection, which were then printed on A3 size sheets and glued all over the canvas, which Jafri took his inspiration from. brush. “We invited millions of children from 140 countries to tell us what they felt in these times of Covid-19 [pandemic]. “
The finished piece, which required the use of 1,065 brushes and 6,300 liters of paint, officially entered the Guinness World Records in February, recognized as “the greatest canvas of art”. It has five sections: Soul of the Earth; Nature; Arrival of humanity; the solar system; and the child’s portal.
But on its own, creating a painting across space almost equivalent to a football field requires extraordinary physical effort. Jafri explains that he spent about 18 hours a day bending over – during which he was unaware of what was happening to his body as he was in a trance state while painting. This is not an exaggeration, as scientists who have studied his brain at work have noticed deep theta waves – triggered when the subconscious is working at high intensity.
Humanity’s journey and the physical toll it took resulted in a herniated disc where the padding between the vertebrae in two places along his spine completely disintegrated. He also dislocated his pelvis on both axes, which caused his heel to disconnect from his feet. Jafri had to have back and pelvic surgeries and said he would start each morning with a pain injection. The desire to finish the painting and lead millions of people to charity is what he says put him through excruciating pain.
In February, Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, UAE Minister for Tolerance and Coexistence, unveiled the project. Jafri says that rather than being a validation of his work as an artist, the minister’s decision to support this global philanthropic initiative “says more about him than about us.”
Once Jafri finished the painting, the plan was to slice it into 70 framed canvases and sell it at multiple auctions around the world to raise a staggering Dh 110 million – at least – as part of a initiative called “ Humanity Inspired ”. There were plans to hold auctions in Davos, Paris, London and other destinations – in addition to an online auction on Facebook as well. However, at a March 22 auction at Atlantis in Dubai, French businessman Andre Abdoune managed to bid $ 62 million – more than double Jafri’s original estimate – to secure the whole table.
During this auction, two other related pieces were also sold. It included the piece of brushes that included the original brushes that Jafri used when creating the record painting, as well as a framed garment worn by the artist.
Jafri says all the money raised by the painting will now be donated to charity. He has partnered with Dubai Cares, UNICEF and UNESCO as well as Eva Longoria’s Global Gift Foundation to help fund projects for children around the world. The initial amount will help meet the sanitation, education, food and health care needs of children from Brazil and India to the Philippines and Indonesia, and beyond. But Jafri has his eye on an even bigger picture – using the $ 62 million as a building block for the UN’s Giga Project to provide internet access to children around the world. “A fund of $ 2 billion has been raised for this project under the UN Giga project. That’s the goal here. “
The Humanity Inspired is said to be the largest artistic, social and philanthropic project of its kind to date. But the artist is keen not to present himself as greater than the cause. “A man can’t do it alone, but I can send ripple effects.” Jafri is unwittingly triggering a tsunami.