The AjA Project: Photography Programs for San Diego Youth
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Kay Rufai: The Universal Man Behind Universoul Brand

AjA’s Programming and Media Intern Endiya Griffin sat down with Artist in Residence Kay Rufai to talk about his inspirations and the ethos of his organization, Universoul Brand.

How would you describe your personal style and how do you think your life experiences have had an impact on it?

“My personal style is a reflection of my expressive soul, I love colours and vibrant ways of expressing myself and I believe this is definitely influenced by the fact that I have grown up in very traditional and conservative backgrounds as a kid and being exposed to conforming as a default uniform of expression. As I grew older and started to find myself through travel and self expression, I realized I needed to outwardly represent what I inwardly felt and that started with the way I wore my clothes, not necessarily WHAT I wore, but more importantly HOW I wore it.”

Why do you feel that self-expression is so important?

“For me self expression is the answer to everything, it is the key to liberating a people, as it helps us champion individuality and express all the crazy and cool thoughts and feelings that explode in our heads and soul everyday. I believe if a culture of self expression is championed in any society, there will be less crimes, less wars, less mental health issues which all stem from internalizing and suppression. So therefore to me it is singularly the most important thing.”


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In what ways have you used creative expression through your organization, Universoul Brand, to change your world and the world around you?

“The first Ethos of the brand is to champion unity of all souls through self expression. So I have used my clothing brand as a template to explore and promote individuality. I run workshops using poetry, drama, photography and other self expression techniques to foster an environment of ‘Being YOUrself’ and therefore slowly creating this culture around me. I am a visual artist, so i also create visual pieces through video in the streets to engage strangers through this medium.”

If you could snap your fingers and make one thing happen right this second that would change the world forever, what change would you make?

“Oooh this is hard, I would change the inequality which therefore brings about the lack of love and empathy in the world. I know I cheated with this answer..shhh….”


How do you feel the work you’ve done with AjA will influence your work back in London?

“I feel it will immensely influence my work in London as the model of participatory learning is one that I have seen delivered first hand and seen the impact it has on the young people while I have been here, as well as the professional end product that the participants get to be a part of, so when I go back to London, this will form a basis for my model of empowerment for the workshops I deliver with groups of young people in the various institutions I will be delivering to.”


Diana Cervera