Anwar Davids: The dreamer from the Cape Flats

“When I saw what this project was about and when I read the stories, I was inspired myself. I was inspired to do justice to the subject that I was doing. This is something that a lot of people will support. This is the next generation that’s gonna come and lead us one day. To see where they come from to where they are now, that’s amazing.”

Anwar Davids, who grew up in tough circumstances, could probably relate to many of the people featured in this book. However, he doesn’t see it that way. “If I had that example as a kid,” he says, “I probably would’ve been a different person right now.”

“Growing up there, I don’t see it as an outsider sees it. For me growing up was like my family, my neighbours, the people I went to school with. “

Anwar Davids painting the walls at his home town of Mitchell’s Plain. PHOTO: ALEX RAMSEY

“When you are faced with it, it’s kind of subconscious when you need to deal with whatever happens because you don’t really have a choice. The only choice you have is to either leave that place or really convert and change your life around, you know what I mean?” Davids adds.

“So a bad day is never a bad day. We had the best of times. It’s often a misconception [that the area is bad], so I just want someone to go there and experience it yourself, don’t listen to what others tell you,” he says, speaking passionately about his upbringing.

“Obviously I’ve seen crime, but who hasn’t? It’s not like it’s a big deal. It’s just that unfortunately there is an influx of it but it’s not everywhere. Like there will be a row of 20 houses and one of those 20 will be disturbing the peace and give the whole place a bad rap, you know what I mean? But that’s how I experienced it. My time there? I loved it and had such fun,” he says.

Davids describes himself as a really quiet person who loves one-on-one conversations. “Observing is a big thing of mine, I like to just listen and observe. I will sit in a place and even if it looks like I’m not doing anything, I’m observing. I will sit in a place and I will look at things and see the whole picture. I am always looking for the good in people. I know the reality of what life is about but I don’t want to go into the bad areas.”

This is clearly reflected in Davids’ art which often tends to be surreal and filled with colour. “From a young age already, I was about 6 years old,” he says about when he first became interested in art, “I was that kid at the primary school who the teachers used to fetch to actually draw for the older kids, your Standard Threes or your Standard Fours. Whether it was just a pencil, crayon or a pen I just wanted to pick it up and draw with it.”

“As a youngster I always knew I wanted to do something creative. I could never see myself in the suit, the tie in the corporate industry, you know. I couldn’t see myself conforming that much so I wanted to do something in the arts, not just necessarily graphic design,” he says.

“So I went through all these stages, like skateboarding, that’s an art, to breakdancing and hip-hop which became a culture for me, and that kind of set a tone for me to get into becoming an artist,” Davids added.

“My favourite memory was when I started to do the hip-hop. We used to dance with cardboard in the road and used to organise roadshows in the centres. The breakdancing and the hip-hop was definitely a highlight for me,” he says.

“The best part of where I am at now is learning. Learning new skills, I don’t only do graphic design now but I also do motion design so it comes in advantage for me,” Davids says of his current situation. He works for eTV as a graphic designer.

“I have an organic approach,” he says of his work process. “If I am given a brief I would know what to do. If I am just sitting and doing my own thing, the idea doesn’t come until I draw something. So I will sit with my pen and will make lines or some shapes, connecting them. I don’t know what I am doing until I start seeing something and then I get inspired to draw something.”

“What is a good artist?” Davids replies when asked about how much work goes into being a good artist. “The way I was taught, art is art. It might not be good for you but it may be good for someone else. Someone will come with a simple circle and they will pay a million rand for that but here I come with my detailed art they will pay like twenty rand for that.”

“You can’t box art. If a gallery decides to box it, I don’t believe in that.” – Dylan Jack