Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Taming of the Beasts: Faith47 interview - Huck Magazine

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From Huck Magazine #35: The On The Road Issue - October/November 2012

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The strong social consciousness in Faith47's work has provoked reactions far beyond her native Cape Town. At home her work has cast light on the contrast between the promise of "New South Africa" and the reality of day-to-day life for its citizens. Internationally her work has questioned the damaging effects of human society on the natural world. "The Taming of the Beasts" is a protest against the illegal killing of African rhinos, on the rise due to a spike in medicinal demand from Asian countries. The poached rhino horns are used in traditional medicine to treat fever, cancer, diabetes and, sickeningly, as a detoxification tonic after human over-indulgence, primarily in Vietnam and China, Malaysia, India and South Korea.

Could you briefly explain the project in your own words?

This artwork is my personal dedication to the rhinos that are being poached in South Africa. I'm really saddened by how humans destroy the nature around us. We think that we are the most important creatures on the planet and thoughtlessly plunder and pillage the sacred earth. The rhinos are strong and powerful creatures and are so brutally murdered on such a wide scale. It's such a great loss to us physically and spiritually. 

The ghost like appearance of the rhinos in among the buildings is really powerful. How did you come up with the eventual form of the project and what effect were you trying to create?

The spirits of the rhinos are lost in the veld, mourning. A few of them followed me when I went to China. I found them lurking in the shadows of Shanghai, anxiously wandering the streets. I therefore set out to rest their souls. The pictures you see are my attempt at doing this. 

Could you explain the title?

When I say 'the Taming of the Beasts,' the beasts I talk of are not the rhinos.

Why did you choose Shanghai as your target, and why each of the specific locations of the pieces?

The irony of placement of the rhinos in Asia, and also specifically in China, as one of the areas of the planet where the rhino horn is being consumed, I think is self evident. In fact that area is one of the common areas in China where old communal houses are being destroyed in order to build huge sky-rises. As the tenants have no right to the land they are forced to move. But some residents are stubborn and refuse, as they have lived there their whole lives. The government therefore demolishes the houses around them, leaving them to live amongst rubble… it's very filthy, they are called 'nail' families. I think the rhino energy related to their plight: things that disappear in the light of 'progress' and the expanding human civilisation. 

Have you had any feedback from the project? Has there been much of a public reaction in Shanghai?

The paintings were more for my own personal feeling of what's happening to the rhinos. I am doubtful if the people in China who see the rhinos would relate it to the poaching situation. The images spread widely on the internet, but in their actual physical position they remain somewhat serene and secluded. The direct impact it has on passersby is something that I acknowledge, but is somewhat a byproduct of my personal process of making the work.

Faith 47's top three socially conscious graffiti artists.


One of the few writers to have tagged the Tate Modern, Blu is famous for his enormous human characters and also the online animations he produces to accompany many of the giant street pieces.


Liquen's style is like a street art love child of Hieronymus Bosch and Heath Robinson. With a surreal edge, he often paints chaotic but beautifully intricate human and natural ecosystems.


Escif's naive-looking but witty pieces have provoked thoughts from walls around the world. His skill in tackling complex issues with simple words and images ranks him alongside the sharpest political cartoonists.

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