In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sacha Jafri created the largest artwork ever painted on canvas. Jafri is a British artist whose works are rooted in contemporary abstraction and centered around themes of humanity, surrealism and global politics. In his most recent creation, ‘The Journey of Humanity’, Jafri embarked on ‘a journey no human being has ever been on’, by creating the largest painting ever made on canvas by a single artist. Jafri transformed a ballroom at Atlantis The Palm Dubai into the largest art studio in the world to create ‘The Journey of Humanity’– a 1,800 square metre canvas, using 500 gallons of paint and 1000 brushes over the course of 8 weeks.
During these unprecedented times of wavering uncertainty and sudden lockdowns, humankind has been prompted to journey inwards and explore social connection in unconventional ways. This new reality served as inspiration for Jafri to reflect on the opportunity for change that may emerge as a result of this global shift. Jafri encourages viewers to find the magic in the mundane, to have meaningful interactions, and to awaken thoughts that may have been dormant. He expresses the importance of society to ‘hear the silence and reconnect with universal consciousness’. Jafri places value on exploring one’s inner child by tapping into the gift of adventure and purity of thought that children constantly experience.
Inspired by the pure intentions, unfiltered thoughts, and genuine creativity of children, Jafri launched ‘Kids Callout’ asking children from ages 2 to 18 to submit artwork expressing their feelings towards the current situation, in an attempt to help him ‘beat the virus’. After receiving hundreds of submissions from children in over 120 countries, Jafri printed the artworks and integrated them on his canvas. He created eight circles or ‘portals’, by which the works were thematically organised. In an effort to portray the journey of humanity, Jafri compartmentalizes the canvas into four parts: the soul of the earth, the gift of nature, the arrival of humanity, and the solar system. Through these magical portals, Jafri aims to reconnect humanity to each other, to the soul of the earth, and to create a better world through the hearts, minds and souls of children around the world. Through the beauty of collaboration, Jafri believes he was able to tap into the true magic of painting and ‘surrende[r] to something greater than [himself]’.
In a time where social interaction can often rely too heavily on digital platforms, Jafri consciously decided to promote interactivity and human connection through the creation of his artwork. The ballroom turned art studio became a space for creatives to interact with the work through performing music, contemporary dance and most recently, an intimate performance to showcase solidarity for the people in Beirut – using the canvas as their stage.
Upon completion, Jafri’s painting will be unveiled at Atlantis, The Palm in November 2020. After a traveling exhibition of the work, ‘The Journey of Humanity’ will be broken down into 60 individually numbered, signed, catalogued, and framed canvases which will be auctioned and sold during a Royal Gala Dinner & Charity Auction in December 2020, in collaboration with The Global Gift Foundation, UNICEF, UNESCO and Dubai Cares, at Atlantis, The Palm (Dubai – UAE). The auction invites buyers from all over the world via live-streaming to more than 140 countries. In a true effort to heal our planet, the artist has pledged that the proceeds of each canvas will be donated to providing children with better health and educational resources.
“I hope for my work to act as an electric shock to our senses, ignite and inspire the spirit, uplift the soul, re-awaken something that often lies dormant or asleep within, and keep the beauty, the purity, and the magic of the child within us all forever.”
Addressing his passion and inspiration for the ambitious initiative, Sacha Jafri stated:
“After a conversation with UNICEF earlier in the year, my eyes were opened to the fact that an estimated 385 million children live in extreme poverty around the world and these children are twice as likely to die in childhood. These numbers have almost doubled in the last four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic has affected every community across the globe and taken the lives of thousands, but it has also changed our mindset, and this means we have a window of opportunity for change.
My initiative, ‘Humanity Inspired’ aims to be a catalyst for true societal change through the hearts, minds & souls of the children of the world – a springboard for a better future for ALL Humanity. I aim to connect the world, and re-connect Humanity to ourselves, each other, and ultimately ‘The Soul of the Earth’. My Painting, ‘The Journey of Humanity’ will support the delivery of improved education, healthcare and connectivity, as well as create vital funds in support of the poorest and most desperately in need areas and regions of our planet. I hope that my ground-breaking creation will help to further advocate global logistical support for health and sanitation within the worst hit refugee camps, slums, town-ships, shanties, favelas and poverty-stricken communities of the world. I thank Dubai Cares and Atlantis, The Palm for making my dream come true.”
Left to right: Sacha Jafri with Ben Stiller, Eva Longoria and Ronan Keating
‘The Journey of Humanity’is not only the largest canvas painting ever created, but also a work that has connected communities and people of all ages, races, and backgrounds in the process. The project, Humanity Inspired, has been endorsed by more than 100 international public figures including ViratKohli, Eva Longoria, Deepak Chopra, Shilpa Shetty, David Beckham, James Corden, Richard Branson, Roger Federer, and many more. Furthermore, the initiative is under the Royal Patronage of HH Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, who is also the only UAE royal to have received the prestigious Nishan-e-Pakistan – Pakistan’s highest civil award bestowed by the President. This ambitious humanitarian campaign emphasizes the importance of human connectivity, communing with the soul of the earth and serves as inspiration to heal the world.
Sacha Jafri with His Highness Sheikh Nahyan Al Nahyan