I recently traveled and spent three weeks in South Africa and Dubai. Overall, it was amazing. Flying into George, we toured the coastline, Garden Route, through the mountains and Cape Town. From the beautiful land and seascapes, to the most touching encounters with the animals, to some of the best food and wine I have ever had on this planet, South Africa was a far greater experience to the senses than I ever imagined. It is a grossly underestimated and lesser discussed travel destination on most people's “Must Visit List”. With their history of political and economic dysfuntion, admittedly, I was hesitant to go myself, but I was proven wrong. Being a smart and careful traveler, as everyone should be anywhere, everything was fine (disclaimer: we never left the airport in Johannesburg, so I can't vouch for the safety there). Locals asked what we thought of SA and my response was a quick “I love it! I can't wait to come back!”. This reaction was often met with surprise, as though South Africans couldn't understand why outsiders would actually like the part of the planet. So why did I love South Africa so much?
SA has more to offer than I was led to believe. There is more to discover than what is seen at first glance. There is depth and history and culture. There are also flaws, a dirty history, corruption, crime, and during the time we were there, drought and devastation from fire. But, all that exists together, without coverup. That's just the way it was, the way it is. You take the good with the bad. Changes are happening. Change will always happen. And despite everything that has happened in South Africa since, well, the beginning of time, the core of the country remains beautiful, the land, the sea, the mountains, the animals, the people, the arts and culture. There is a soul, here, that resonates as deeply as the roots that grounds human kind to this planet. It was created by the hands of a god.
By contrast, our few days in Dubai were all I needed to see what UAE was all about. No need to go back, except to rest overnight in a luxurious hotel to and from Africa again. Produced and created by the hands of seven families united together to form the UAE, Dubai is the epitome of privilege, materialism, consumerism, gluttony, wastefulness, egoism and superficiality. It is the playground for the rich and those who like to pretend they are. I wanted to like this place, I tried to find something redeeming about this city in the desert, but I came out empty, just like all the towering buildings that remained unoccupied. Dubai is soulless. There is no heart in this body, it is merely a shell, a facade, a pretty face with no depth. I found sadness in the captivity of the animals that did not belong there, the people who worked under the unbearable heat just so they could send money back to their homes elsewhere, natural resources wasted in the name of entertainment for the crowds of visitors. There is no long term identifiable culture of UAE. Dubai is contrived, manufactured and visitors are manipulated. It is the mecca of “wannabes”: I wannabe RICH, I wanna be the TALLEST, I wanna be the MOST, I wanna be the BEST, I wannabe like America or Europe or anyone else other than me. Perhaps those are your aspirations, and that is fine, but find that inspiration from a place that makes you and those around you better than before.
And those two stories bring me to why I wanted to write this blog article. I want to talk about authenticity because it seems to be lacking in many aspects of life and living. According to Rousseau (philosopher), authenticity comes from a genuine source within, rather than external or periphery motivations. My observations would include.....
Authenticity serves a purpose that stems from pure intentions.
Authenticity builds genuine connections.
Authenticity is good business practice.
Authenticity is accountable to integrity as integrity is accountable to authenticity.
The only right answer when being authentic is whether one is being true to the self.
Authenticity is sustainable because it exists regardless of what happens.
Authenticity is transparent, there is nothing to hide.
Authenticity allows for mistakes and failures, better yet, allows to admit to them, then start again.
Authenticity is trustworthy.
Authenticity is believable.
Authenticity is sincere.
Authenticity evolves in an organic flow.
Being authentic consumes less energy than trying to be someone/something else.
Authenticity reveals everything (which is neither good or bad)
Authenticity never needs to try too hard.
Being authentic means just being is enough.
Authenticity doesn't edit out mistakes/flaws or use filters or photoshop,
Authenticity is always appreciated.
Authenticity is respected.
Authenticity presents no apologies because you can't be sorry for anything that is truth.
Why choose authenticity?
So, applying the concept of authenticity to places, products, businesses, events, art, people, I noticed that the success and survival of all those things depend on authenticity. Failure to be authentic tends to lead to failed businesses, events, places, and those people tend to have very few real “friends”. People like to work with people they like and that comes from being an authentic person. The artist reveals so much through their artistic medium of choice, but even there, if the source of inspiration or motivation is not authentic or pure, the artwork fails, it's not convincing and feels soulless. I've experienced that myself though my paintings. Every art piece that I've created that was motivated by sales/money did not sell. When I created from the heart and opened my soul, those paintings resonated with others and the sales followed. I always have to remember to lead from the heart and not from the bank account. Not to say that the business of art is not important, but the mission of the art needs to come from an inner source.
For long term strategy, going authentic brings customers, visitors, people back again and again for more. When looking at UAE and South Africa, it's pretty easy to see which country is authentic versus not. South Africa not only has so much to offer, but it's a place you want to help and contribute to, you want to be a part of it. I want to go back, I want to experience more, I want to bring others with me and show them what a great place it is. I am happy to spend my hard earned money there. I can't say the same about Dubai. Even while I was there, I didn't want to "waste" more of my money than was necessary. For the creative producer, a trendy, "it" artist may be successful for a short lived moment, but It is not sustainable. As an artist who chooses art for life, it's a commitment to expose their soul, the truth in all its raw beauty, unabashedly for the world to see. The lifetime artist exposes their journey through a visual, musical, dramatic process that when observed closely, can reveal something about the viewer's self as well. Being authentic, allows everyone else around to be also authentic, it. Pretty scary when you think about it because it opens up to being vulnerable. But here's the thing......it's all beautiful. All of it. What you believe is what you see. If you believe that reality is beautiful, it will be appreciated for what it is. Believe in authenticity, in your own authenticity and others will see it too. Authenticity is how we have real and deeper connections, making life better all around.
Am I being authentic? I'd be a hypocrite if I said I was all the time. I screw up, I'm far from perfect. I make attempts at being honest to myself, about who I really am. I catch myself, being or wanting to be someone else at times. I've tried on different hats, only to realize it didn't really suit me and put it away. Same with art, I've started a series of works, but discontinued down that path because I didn't feel it reflected who I am or what I'm accomplishing. It's an interesting journey, self discovery and acceptance. The human experience is unique from any other species. We can choose be authentic, or not. I don't know everything about the deepest parts of me, but I am genuinely trying to find out who my authentic self is. Through my art (and I guess these blog posts), you get to see the processes of how my journey is progressing!