DUBAI: Inside a ballroom at Dubai’s 5-star Atlantis The Palm, artist Sacha Jafri works with intensity.
Dozens of paint cans be found around a canvas that at 1,986 square meters is soon to become the world’s largest-ever painting, hopefully earning it a Guinness World Record.
But contemporary British painter Jafri’s aim is not notoriety. He has been working on the painting, titled “The Journey of Humanity,” since March while in lockdown at the UAE resort due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
In November, the painting will be cut into 60 pieces and auctioned at Atlantis The Palm in a bid to raise more than $30 million to support children and youth around the globe worst-hit by the virus outbreak. The auction will be live streamed to 14 countries.
“It seems that we’ve become a little self-important as humans, and now there is an opportunity to unlearn everything we, as adults, thought we knew, and re-learn a new understanding of humanity, humility, empathy, and ultimately our re-engaged path ahead, through the souls of our children,” said Jafri.
The charity partners in the project include UNICEF, UNESCO, the Global Gift Foundation, and Dubai Cares, alongside the UAE government.
As part of Jafri’s mission, the project aims to connect 1 billion people worldwide through art.
Jafri told Arab News: “The inspiration for this painting comes from a place of surrender. You cannot think that it is you as an artist creating it. I am a place of surrender, humility, and learning. I have surrendered to the moment here and trusted that something beautiful will happen.”
The painting is divided into several narratives. “I feel humans have become disconnected from the soul of the Earth. I think as humanity we were heading for something much worse than COVID-19. It was almost a wake-up call to tell us that we need to make a change and to reflect that I wanted to create this painting ‘The Journey of Humanity,’” he said.
In the artwork’s first section, Jafri depicts the soul of the Earth and what it might look like. The next section portrays nature, “our next greatest gift — the mountains, the trees, the oceans, the rivers. It’s about the beauty of nature,” he added.
The following section is about humanity itself, and the love and nurture of the mother. “What I have found is that in life a child needs to feel safe, loved, and brave and then they can grow their wings and they can make their dreams come through.
“Sadly, what I have found out through my journeys and the many places I have been, charities and refugee camps, over the years, is that 90 percent of children in the world do not feel safe, loved, and brave and that is in the first world, the developing world, and the richest communities,” Jafri said.
Once the necessary funds have been raised, the project aims to bring internet connectivity to some of the most remote and poorest regions of the world along with in-need communities decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The project will also set up progressive and more affective sustainable education and health hubs equipped with internet access for further online platform learning, medical supplies, healthcare, inoculations, vaccines, and sanitation with the hope of bettering the lives of 10 million children.
“The goal is to give those that need it most a very real opportunity to change the world around them,” added Jafri.
Atlantis The Palm has set up a website where children from countries around the world can submit their artwork. Jafri then prints it and uses it for inspiration as he paints. “These are artworks untainted by adult lives; they are reflections of pure emotion,” he said.
“Humanity Inspired” is one of the first projects of its kind to be endorsed by more than 100 global public figures including Indian cricketer Virat Kohli, American actress Eva Longoria, US-Indian author Deepak Chopra, English model Brooklyn Beckham, chair of the Virgin Unite foundation Holly Branson, British comedian David Walliams, French footballer Kylian Mbappe, Iraqi-American makeup artist Huda Kattan, US musician Nile Rodgers, and Belgian-Canadian singer Lara Fabian.
Each of the 100 celebrities supported Jafri remotely while he was painting during lockdown and have encouraged the rest of the world to get involved.
“I hope for my work to act as an electric shock to our senses, ignite and inspire the spirit, uplift the soul, reawaken something that often lies dormant or asleep within, and keep the beauty, the purity, and the magic of the child within us all forever,” added Jafri.
“With this painting, ‘The Journey of Humanity,’ I am aspiring to transform humanity to collectively paint the world a different color, with a message of hope and a new dawn laid before us.”