Rarely do North American audiences get the opportunity to see modern art, -mainly graffiti- from Africa. Recently I was granted the opportunity to interview Faith47, who is one of the emerging artists coming out of South Africa. Her work, found in galleries as well as townships -where even the most rugged North American artists (male and female) would dare not enter- takes the viewer beyond the South Africa we see on TV and into a land where despite much hardship a resilient people thrive.
In this interview, we get discuss such topics as South Africa’s graffiti scene to musical influences to her love of language; as well as street art versus the canvas and even the notion of optimism. A bit deeper than the typical Q & A, “eh”?? Well, she’s deeper than your typical graffiti writer.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Faith47.
(interview by Matthew J)
What’s up, Faith? I want to start off with a seldom asked question: What is your personal mission statement in regards to life as well as graffiti? What does Faith47 represent to the World??
Faith47: I make it up as I go… there is no ultimate truth… I change my mind all the time… I get upset by mobs of people chasing refugees out 6 story windows.. and I get inspired by going into the mountains and remembering that we are part of nature… in between these things are thousands of questions… many answers… more questions…. life and death…. I am humbled by to the destructive and creative nature in us all… this is what keeps me painting…
What is the origin of Faith47? How did you get into graffiti? How did you get started? What initially attracted you to the genre?
Faith47: Well I was introduced to graffiti by wealz130 of the YMB crew. He was a very influential young pioneer in the scene and has guided me all the way. I love art. I hate art. I love people. I hate society. I was into punk and skating and all forms of good rebellious music… so graffiti was for me a match made in heaven… it’s grown me up a lot and humbled me too and made me let go a lot…. I love the way that the work you do is so temporary…. nothing lasts forever… the wind and sun gets it or the buff… it’s a flicker that someone might see and then it’s gone . and did anyone see it. and do you care. and you give it away. move forward and stay in the moment.
How does your family feel about your graffiti? Are they supportive?
Faith47: My son paints with me….
How deep is South Africa’s graffiti scene? Who are the pioneers? As far as style, creativity, and expression go, what does South Africa offer graffiti that differentiates it from other countries?
Faith47: The South African scene… oh man… it’s deep… and raw.. and mean yet humble… the bombers in our scene get my utmost respect… guys like toe007,tapz, naid, dek3, kers, enos, brush, disk, cros and others.. they really get into the most hardcore spots and there are so many dangerous elements on the streets… but I find they don’t have ‘the whole world revolves around me’ attitude that you find in so many places… when you are bombing in south african streets you are never the most hardest m***fkr on the streets so there is a certain chaotic and aggressive humbleness to it… old school writers like mak1one, falko and gogga have done lots for the scene… pioneers like reyn22 and wealz130 whose style still burns…. the creative genius of rasty, hak1one and conform. crews like QK,RL,FUK,FSU,WK?,MSE have done massive amounts of work in a country where access to paint and magazines have until recently been a mission to get and money is always a thing…. it’s very unexposed and its great that way…
Who are your heroes? Both growing and currently?
Faith47: My mum. My friends. My son. Wealz130. Patti Smith. The Zapatistas. Naomi Klein. Noam Chomsky. Brendra Fassie. Steve Biko.
You named your son as one of your heroes in life. How was his birth changed your approach to the art form? Are you more focused on putting out certain messages?
Faith47: Having a child is very grounding and as I’m not a very grounded person this been pretty challenging for me. I don’t know how things would be without him, I don’t think I would have worked as hard as I have done. I mean I had him at 18 so I never really had the time to take it easy -or study… but it made me more focused and I had to grow up fast, but then at the same time I think I’m also going to stat young as we’re growing up together now .. and I’d like him to put what he loves first … get into this talents and passions and live them fully… this is key … so this motivates me to do the same.
As far as musical influences go you have a very eclectic list [Modest Mouse to Immortal technique and the Misfits]. Which groups do you credit as having the biggest influences as far as art and life are concerned?
Faith47: Hmmmm … in order of appearance … beastie boys, dead kennedys ,new model army, sonic youth, sisters of mercy, bauhaus, patti smith, mazzy star, sage francis, aesop rock, immortal technique, the knife,le tigre,coco rosie,gogol bordello, munley and the lee lewis harlots but there are many many many
I like the way you write. I especially liked the words you wrote for the “Restless Debt Of Third World Beauty” exhibit: “both the female and the third world have been oppressed and raped. Despite this they are powerfully resilient and form the backbone of strength in society their voices silenced in the media with its strong western male gaze.” That is truly poetic. Have you considered taking up poetry as another way to express your views on life?
Faith47: I like words a lot.. language needs to be destroyed and rebuilt… so that we own it… It’s just communication … like letter style….how do we get our thoughts and feelings from here to there… ? words are very limiting… I think we’ll explode without music and art and muddling words up here and there….
I know you believe in guardian angels, so what can you tell me about “demonwardarkloveangels“? What does that series of work represent?
Faith47: The disappointment and sadness of the angel who witnessed the fall of humanity as her own self. Her fabric is human and out of heart comes the decisions that humanity makes. The greed and destruction. She loves hard. So it hurts a lot.
If you weren’t involved with graffiti, what do you think you’d be doing?
Faith47: This is not possible
Many writers paint for the sake of notoriety and fame. Somebody with your talent could easily get fame by painting in posh galleries, yet you actually go into townships and paint murals. What inspired you to go in the townships? I’m sure few artists (male and female) would even consider that an option. Why do you do it?
Faith47: to explore my own city.
to avoid the inner city buff.
for fame and notoriety.
to get up in different areas.
to inspire some graffiti to start coming out of those areas.
to get photos that can travel over the seas and make people see reality in a different context.
I paint in all areas. this is graffiti. we take the streets…. either high traffic areas or areas that we specifically like because of the texture. or the wall. or the environment. we love the photo. the photo immortalises the moment which is gone immediately. I paint galleries too. and boring walls in suburbia. and main roads and freeways sometimes. and sometimes I sit at home and don’t feel like painting at all. everything has its place and time. It just depends on the day in question.
You paint on canvas as well. Compared to traditional street art what kind of advantages and disadvantages do you find when working on canvas?
Faith47: working on the streets is way more experiential. its a whole process from finding new spots to actually painting… I mean its much harder to get your ideas and style together and be focused when you have all the outside elements.. cars rushing by… people walking past or talking to you. getting mugged. gangsters telling you stories… kids wanting cans… having beers with your mates… or rushing to get done… 30 degree heat… howling wind… freezing cold…. those things all add to the wall … there is a whole story behind each photo…. people don’t understand that…..
on the flip side a canvas is like a personal thing… your thoughts.. your music.. you can block the world out and lock yourself up… it’s more of a meditation… the one is like breathing in… the other like breathing out…
15 years ago, the Apartheid government fell, Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years imprisonment, and was later elected the first Black President in South Africa’s History. Despite these huge historic changes many of the racial, economic, political, health (via AIDS/HIV), and gender-based divisions are still in effect. At times things look grim, yet you haven’t given up on the possibility of change. How do you maintain that sense of optimism? How do you keep your Faith (no pun)?
Faith47: Optimism… I don’t think I’m particularly optimistic…. well I do believe in the plight of the innocent and misled…. … I think the government is up to shit.. the xenophobia situation makes me sick… the corporations and banks are bleeding the population dry… sexism and rape and violence are rife….cape town city is a city that cares more about its tourists then its own people… the neo liberal policies of south africa are very destructive to the man on the street… and the man on the street is so concerned with the everyday hustle that he fails to research who is to blame for what’s going down..
but I fucking love this place… people are strong and they look you in the eye… I don’t know what the future holds.. I’m not really optimistic after reading “the shock doctrine” by Naomi Klein my whole world fell apart… I go day by day by day by day…
Last year, South Africa and the World, lost legendary activist and singer Miriam Makeba aka “Mama Africa”. She created art which fought against the Apartheid government and the horrible conditions within your country. In fact, she was banned from her own homeland due to her music. Being a South African artist who happens to be female, do you feel a duty to carry on in the tradition of “Mama Africa” ?
Faith47: Much respect to her yeah I think its beautiful to see any artist dedicate everything to what they believe. In south africa we have a history of people going in to exile and dying for their beliefs… it’s very important to have these role models….
How was it that you were able to keep participating in culture which has stereotypically been seen as a “guy’s only” art? What kept you so determined?
Faith47: My bleeding heart
Any advice for females trying to get into graffiti?
Faith47:You teach people how to treat you… be self contained… carry mace…
Despite the struggles fought and ones to be endured, there is obviously great hope and belief in the future. What sort of positive things do you see in South Africa’s future?
Faith47: There is some super interesting music and artists coming out of south africa… a real creative energy that carries with it the flavor of the streets.. mixed up cultures and influences…. young people who are tough as nails…. politically aware…. fashion that you can’t fake…. things like that…
What is something about South Africa that makes you proud to call yourself a citizen?
Faith47: The actual landscape… the earth.. the plants and the color of the soil and the way the sky carries on forever… the beaches and forests and animals and the feeling you get when your driving for hours on a dirt road like your floating in some space between earth and dreaming….
What is something good about South Africa which foreigners don’t know , but you feel they should [know]?
Faith47: I don’t agree with borders. they are man made, done with a pencil, on a map. The earth is round. Passports are fictitious. We are all from the same place.
We should look at other countries as if they are our own… we all belong everywhere and no where at the same time…….
American revolutionary Sekou Odinga is credited for saying, “If you are a poet make revolutionary poetry. If you are an artist, create revolutionary art.” The very essence of your graffiti is a form of revolutionary art – proper propaganda, if you will. The way you use images, words, environments, and themes to shake the status quo challenges people to question the world around them. Do you consider yourself a revolutionary?
Faith47: A revolution often leads to the next movement or leader being corrupt… so I think the only revolutionary process that can work with this in mind is the revolution of the self. like you. your own person. what you think and what you know and what you do. then we all effect each other and maybe somewhere this creates change on a larger scale. but the initial and most essential idea is about your own self . somehow… this makes sense.. to me… at this moment… I might change my mind though… but revolution is good … power needs to change hands… the profits from a countries recourses need to go to the people. government and corporations should not be so inter connected…. simple things like that… it’s upsetting… we feel so small and ridiculously ineffective in the whole scheme of things as individuals… yet we are not. and we are…. everything is a contradiction…
Mainstream society tends to vilify graffiti culture as something which represents the social degeneration of people. Ironically enough, graffiti has become an actual bridge linking people who normally may not have had a reason to interact with one another. What would you say is the most significant way(s) graffiti has united people in your country?
Faith47: Well we have a lot of people who are against graffiti and street art… in Cape Town the council is making it very difficult for us by introducing anti nuisance by laws and cleaning as much as they can… So there is not a great appreciation for it which is a pity as I think it can really add to the fabric of a city and it’s culture…when you paint on the streets you are investing into your community … I mean there are a lot of morals and norms in society that I find pretty mixed up … back to front…and the way people view things are based on what they are told by the media etc. etc so they don’t often take the time to really look at something from a different perspective … and so it is with the work on the streets … getting demonized … one need to just open their minds to the facts that the space is public … that we are humans with creative energies … and that it’s form or communication .. art … letters … colors .. lines. Why should we restrict ourselves to the white walled galleries where there are cities with aching grey walls … cities need a human touch … not adverts and billboards … we as people need to see what other people are thinking and feeling … not what the advertisers would like us to be thinking and feeling …
Unification? Well I guess the writers become like the family overt time .. You grow up together … you judge others work on the skill and style not on someone’s culture, religion, or race. When we travel we see how much of a network the graffiti culture is … anywhere in the world someone will have your back and give you a couch to sleep on … now in this day and age where else are you going to find that ???
5.10.15. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 15 years?
Faith47: I’m just figuring out this moment … and sometimes tomorrow. I want to be with my son and with my art and hopefully more skilled and patient and clever.
|More Interviews >>|