Each individual featured on the #IAm cover, aimed to challenge perceptions of themselves and highlight something that makes them unique. Farai Engelbrecht, Rhain Jenkins, Zoya Pon and Ian Muller were each given the creative freedom to conceptualize and express their topic. This was to make space for genuine expression, and in turn created an authentic outcome that is both honest, vulnerable and impactful. The cover images were shot by Frantz Birkholtz with clothing by local designers: OH OK, Artclub and Friends and Koeksuster Intimates.
FARAI ENGELBRECHT (@samurai_farai)
Whenever I do a shoot I always try to tap into my femininity.
Because I feel like that’s what makes me beautiful. We used very sensual colors. Lots of yellows, pinks, very soothing, a whole colour palette that doesn’t necessarily associate to general ‘boyishness’. Just putting the masculine identity in a space of vulnerability. Whenever I do a shoot I always try to tap into my femininity because I feel like that’s what makes me beautiful.
My whole life I always found it hard to tap into my emotions…
My sensitivity, my vulnerability… Because I felt like it didn’t make me a man so I always struggled with my self-worth because of that.
I am a combination of all of my lived experiences.
And those experiences are not linear, and that is to say that at this point in time in this present I could be something completely different in the future. But what I am, what I always try to be, is the most honest version of myself. Even if that honesty is to tell you that I don’t know who I am.
I can’t make you perceive me the way I want you to perceive me.
That’s your choice. So if you say I am one thing that’s what you’re gonna make me out as.
There’s all these stigmas and stereotypes.
And I’m never down for that. I always thought before [I cheated] that I was a very politically correct, sensitive male and I realized, yes I am but that doesn’t mean that I’m immune to exhibiting toxic masculinity tendencies. Or encouraging and enabling it.
I took accountability-
I sat both the women down, and said ‘listen I’m lying to both of you about ABCD’, I took accountability, it was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Then I realized the power of transparency and vulnerability, specifically for the masculine identity.
Being an enabler is just the same as being it.
If you’re not gonna raise your voice to your homie who’s talking to a woman like shit and say ‘that makes me uncomfortable’ then you’re doing the same thing, you might as well be talking to that woman just as that person is.
Everyone wants accountability for their goodness.
But when did you take accountability for hurting someone’s feelings, and just acknowledging that you said something out of line?
I had to call out one of my really good friends…
Because he completely disrespected me and the women I was with at the time. I was like ‘Listen, this is how we’re going to fix this, how we’re gonna move forward. This call out is not me abandoning you, its just me telling you that I love you enough to say that, that thing made me uncomfortable. For us to continue in the future I need you to maybe do this differently’.
The fear of being dragged, called out, reprimanded…
That is just a fear, you can learn from it. Someone can make you aware of something you weren’t aware of and its good: there’s a difference between being ignorant and headstrong. I believe in myself, but not too much that I’m too proud to help someone better myself. You’re never just woke and then you’re done. True wokeness never goes to sleep [laughs].
As a man I’m entitled to speak and be heard everywhere.
[I’m] aware of the power dynamic. The power of listening, and putting yourself outside of your comfort zone and just taking it in… you make space, for other people, for other voices.
Start having uncomfortable conversations with your male friends.
Start investigating and confronting how you talk to women, how you engage with women, how you engage with your sexuality. You need to start asking yourself ‘What is it in a woman that makes you attracted to them and why? Where does that come from?’. Because, as men, our sexual education is purely from the internet, it is from social imagery, social media and popular media. It’s what we see in movies, its what we see on porn. And we need to realize that all of that is an illusion. Its not real, its not how we actually engage with one another.
There’s no other way to be aware without being sensitive.
Its understanding that I embody all of the good things and I can embody all of the negative things if I am unaware. If I practice and I try to holistically be aware all the time, and that’s by being vulnerable. There is no other way for me.
As told to Zoya Pon by Farai Engelbrecht.
Images: Frantz Birkholtz