One of the world’s most ambitious humanitarian projects is now complete right here in Dubai.
British artist Sacha Jafri has been working on the world’s largest painting — The Journey of Humanity — since March this year at The Atlantis. At 17,000 square feet, the ground-breaking work of art required 1,400 gallons of paint and 1,050 paintbrushes — and has been officially described by Guinness World Records as the largest art canvas in the world.
It is now set to break six more world records, including the largest painting to ever hang in a museum, and most expensive painting ever sold online.
Sacha embarked upon the project after he found himself stranded in Dubai due to the Covid-19 lockdown in March. “I wanted to create something poignant,” he said, after major commissions for events such as Expo 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics had to be deferred due to the pandemic.
The finished painting will be unveiled next month, before being housed in leading museums around the world, and finally being broken down into 70 framed canvases to be auctioned in collaboration with The Global Gift Foundation, UNICEF, UNESCO and Dubai Cares.
The work of art is set to raise more than $30 million — a figure Sacha believes they will “easily supersede, given the interest it’s generated already” — to aid disadvantaged populations in dire need of better health, education and sanitation facilities, as well as Internet connectivity.
According to the artist, more than 2.5 billion individuals have already engaged with the project online — a figure tracked by Google Analytics, and which already surpasses their initial goal of one billion people. “The world has changed more than people realise in the last eight months,” he said. “Intolerance has become the norm, and it’s unacceptable. I think the reason this project has resonated so much is because of its pure intentions — of just wanting to put love out there and inspire humanity. People tapped into that, and it’s very humbling.”
The project is being backed by over 100 A-list celebrities, and is gearing up to tackle the devastating impact of the pandemic on children and youth around the world. “This is an opportunity for us to have real societal change,” said Sacha. “Covid-19 has taught us a lot. It would very sad if we went back to our old ways. The only way to change humanity is to elevate consciousness, love, and empathy. We owe it to all who lost their lives this year to make the most of this chance we have right now.”
The artist confirmed that he would remain closely involved with seeing the funds raised translate into their stated aims. From the refugee camps of the Middle East and Africa to the slums of South East Asia and the favelas of South America, the project will look to set up progressive and sustainable education and health hubs to save the lives of 10 million children globally — in more ways than one.
“The biggest divide stems from those with the Internet — and those without,” said Sacha. “The latter are falling off the map. We’re going to change that. There are places where kids are walking 50kms to school every day. That is not sustainable. We’ll be creating enough centres, equipped with technology, so that for the first time, these kids can be educated to the point of winning a scholarship to university and then putting that education back into their community. If enough of them do that, we would change the world.”
Following these funds — and the success stories that come off them — is what Sacha sees himself doing for the next 20 years. “This painting is not a one-off project, where we auction it and the money goes to charity. It’s a legacy that will continue for the next 30-40 years — one that will hopefully create a new consciousness. The real work doesn’t end with the auction. The auction is where it begins.”
The artist is on a mission to inspire humanity with his vision of ‘One World, One Soul, One Planet’. But he acknowledged that the issues dividing people today are also very real. How does he reconcile the two? “You have to believe,” he stated simply. “When you stop, all hope will be lost. It takes decades to bring about change — and not through one person. So, it’s about staying true to your vision and giving it your all till you run out of steam. Then, someone else will carry that mantle, more people will get involved, and that’s how change will finally happen.”