30 Sep VIDA E CAFFÈ X DISCOVERY VITALITY PRESENT: AMY-LEIGH BRAAF
Last year, well-known and loved coffee retailer vida e caffè, alongside Discovery Vitality and Between 10and5 called on illustrators from across the country to conceptualise and create an innovative limited edition design for vida’s reusable bamboo cups, which will be sold in vida stores nationwide and made available as a redemption on Vitality Active Rewards. The competition aims to support and celebrate the South African creative industry; including emerging artists and illustrators.
Following a rigorous evaluation of the extensive number of portfolio submissions we received from highly talented artists, we are excited to share that three illustrators have been chosen as winners. Amy-Leigh Braaf, Ruramai Musekiwa, and Carli Badenhorst. We got to catch up with the winners in a 3 part feature. First, we have Amy-Leigh Braaf aka Hakopike.
Tell us about yourself and your creative background – when did your love for art and creativity begin?
My entire experience with art has been something that’s guided me throughout my entire life. I remember losing myself in artworks for hours every single day after school with earphones in and a cup of coffee that my mom would bring me. My family guided me through so many art forms since I was four years old. My cousin is a photographer, my uncle taught me how to play music and paint and somehow I always find myself attending an art class a dance lesson, or even finding myself behind a pottery wheel. I studied film production for three years and then I decided to leave South Africa for two years. During this time I lost myself in short films, gold leaf paintings, photography shoots in Hong Kong Vietnam, Japan, and South Korea. When I decided to return to South Africa I was drawn into the world of illustration and I was so happy to have been absorbed by it. I suppose it was my fascination with surrealism and magical realism taken from the books I read on trains and the words I exchanged with strangers. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime has passed but in this one, I find myself completely encapsulated by Johannesburg and even deeper into art forms I never knew could take me so far.
A year has gone by since vida launched their Illustrator Competition and called on artists to enter. Tell us about why you chose to enter the competition?
I seem to have a habit of basing all of my decisions on impulse but I’ve realized that my impulsiveness has always brought me abundance. When I saw that the vida competition was open all I could think was “I have nothing to lose but I have so much to gain”. One thing I really enjoy is surprising myself and constantly challenging myself. A part of me wondered what a world would be like where an immense amount of people could see my work on something as amazing as a coffee cup. Coffee is something that’s brought me through so many late nights of directing editing and illustrating – isn’t this the most perfect scenario – where my art can be found on the same beverage that had kept my inspiration going for all these years?
A year later, you’ve been chosen as one of the winners; what does this mean to you?
I’m so grateful for every opportunity that comes my way – sometimes it feels like a dream. I think about how all of this started, how I had to apply for scholarships my entire life, how I worked as a waitress or bartender and a salesperson and somehow fit in an entire degree in my evenings, and then saved up enough money to travel the world by myself for two years. Magical is how it feels and it almost feels like the universe has aligned to provide me with all of the gifts that have come my way. I think every artist goes through a stage where they wonder if all of their hard work will bring them one step closer to their dreams – but I have many dreams and I chase them every day without fear, without attachment and without disappointment. Winning is a strange concept but I’m always happy to succeed.
What are you hoping to achieve beyond designing vida’s sustainable takeaway coffee cups?
I often envision my life as opportunities come – and I think that after I design vida’s sustainable takeaway coffee cups I am going to explore my art even further. I am pouring my heart and soul into every piece I do – so that I can rest assured that all of my works are created to the best of my ability. I am interested in exploring design work for different platforms beyond digital illustrating – and I think that this will be a great stepping stone for me to achieve that.
Talk us through the type of work you create, your artistic style and what influenced this style.
I’ve always been interested in magical realism and the idea of alternative universes. A lot of my influences come from Ukiyo-E artworks from the 17th century and a lot of my artworks are inspired by my heritage. I often work on projects that vary from posters to album covers, to logos and comic books. Because I started out as a filmmaker my work often is influenced by a cinematic style. My photography series over the years have also been inspired by moments of impact. All of the work I create is always inspired by my dreams and obscure concepts of life that I often want to explore.
How has your style developed over the years?
it’s very strange but ever since I was 16 I have always kept octopus tentacles in my pieces – although not always. It has been a token of sorts over the years and it has been a great way to observe my development throughout multiple styles I explore. I’m a lot more focused on minimalism now and I’ve moved from using Procreate to Illustrator predominantly. However, my art will always stem from the same space within myself – one that seeks out truth and creativity in its rawest forms.
What are some of the themes you explore within your work and through these themes, what message do you intend to communicate?
I’m always fascinated by the idea of love and the forms that it can find itself in. After traveling for so long I realized that love is the same everywhere – the same goes for pain and shared experiences. I’m fascinated by the state of being a human and itself – and a lot of my work explores the idea of multiple worlds that we can exist in. A lot of this is based on the idea of ambition and constantly seeking out change. Over the years I’ve always had a fascination with strangers and the way that they can mould our experiences and our outlooks in life – although a lot of my artworks focus on interpersonal relationships – I’m also interested in the beauty of the unknown and of moments that haven’t even happened yet.
Art is a mirror of society; how does your work respond to some of the issues that we are faced with today?
Over the last two years, I’ve been working on an art series that focuses on ancestry – as well as suppression. The art series is called Ancient Deities – and it focuses on trauma that has been passed down from one generation to the next. I often explore themes of detachment and avoidance because I believe that they are the two most dangerous shared experiences that so many people have come across. I often leave my work open for interpretation – and when I draw – it pours out of me. One’s stream of consciousness is a concept that intrigues me because we often filter what we say and wear masks to protect ourselves internally and externally. Femininity is also something that I like to focus on in my work and the fluidity that can be found within it. everything I create stems from an extremely complex space that can often be found in every single person you meet. I like to imagine people’s thoughts and ideas – and I try my best to convey them in as many forms as possible.
Fast forward to five years from now – where do you see yourself?
Since I was small I’ve always had an idea of what my life would be like – I imagine a studio, and the studio has a pottery section, it has large windows with lots of light, and a kitchen with a steel table where I can continue to create through food and pastries – another love of my life. I imagine that I’m still creating – however focusing on being a creative director and managing multiple projects through the lens of an auteur. I want to bring projects to life and nurture them in a space that is inclusive and collaborative – I enjoy spaces like these because I never had them when I started losing myself in art. My journey was isolated – but in a way it was better for me because I know exactly what I want, my artistic journey has been one that’s indescribable and I’m never doubtful because I know how beautiful this life is – and all the lives that have come before me – and all the ones that will follow.
vida e caffè and Discovery Vitality are homegrown, proudly South African brands that celebrate African life and culture with people at their core, and represent our diverse country internationally. Both brands believe in spreading the message of health and wellness – actively playing their part in encouraging people to live better lives. The winners were tasked to create designs that reflect both brands’ core values and celebrate South African culture and diversity by incorporating elements such as people, street culture, music, fashion, athletes/sports etc. within their work.