XAPO BANK brings you stories of The Few: Part 2 of 4
Introducing Fhatuwani Mukheli, artist, entrepreneur and culture shifter.
In this four-part series, Xapo Bank brings you the extraordinary journeys of The Few. Four South African changemakers share their stories of quiet revolution, purpose and impact beyond their own realms and limitations. For The Few, vision is the key to new possibility.
Fhatuwani Mukheli shares his passion for art, family and flow as the ultimate creator of wealth.
Two childhood personas
When Fhatuwani was a young boy, he alternated between his roots in Venda and his city upbringing in Soweto. This was a time of boyish confidence, when he went by his birth name.
All this changed when he started at a multiracial school in Eldorado Park at the age of nine and started going by the more pronounceable name of ‘Innocent’. “I did it to avoid being bullied because Fhatuwani was a very tough name to pronounce. I then became extremely shy but luckily I always had my twin brother with me.”
It was in this uncertain time that he found confidence in drawing. “People would say, wow you’re so good and that made me feel good. My way of getting praise was to draw something really well and then everyone would admire it.”
Fhatuwani identified art as his way of belonging in the world. It still is that to him today. “I could never write to express myself, but I could draw and paint an artwork overnight – that was my superpower. I will do it until I die because it’s so much fun.”
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Art as a way out of the dark
In 2021 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Fhatuwani was in a dark place. His creative business was not doing well, he was partying too much and he didn’t spend any time on his art. “I asked myself, why are you not happy? I had everything – cool sneakers, a cool apartment, a nice car, but I wasn’t happy. I was like a zombie. It happens when you’re not present and you just go to work chasing that pay check. I realised I wasn’t connected to myself anymore.”
He wrote down everything that made him truly happy. Back flips, gymnastics and parkour. He went back to training. He started making art again, for the sheer joy of it.
“Personally I think everything is art. But the type of art I belong in is not advertising stuff. I started drawing for myself, and sharing my process of getting back to my art (on Instagram) and immediately the first artwork I did, a lady said, Hey, I really like that, how much for that? She was from Germany and I had to figure out shipping. Then next day the same thing happened, and then the next day, and the next.” That’s when he realised he could make a career out of something he loved.
Realisations about money
After two weeks of feverishly making art that flew off the shelves, sales suddenly stopped. Depressed, Fhatuwani checked himself. It had become about the money. “I realised I need to create for myself, not for sales.”
“Now I just paint as much as I want. And it’s therapeutic ’cause it connects me back to little me. If I do that the money will come.”
That said, Fhatuwani also realised he had to manage the proceeds of his art with care. “Art is beyond just creating it. The business of art is as important as the art itself. You have to become adaptable and persevere. Wealth is waking up, doing what I love and not having to stress.”
Keeping the creative spark alive
For Fhatuwani, his muse is that first confident little Venda boy who loved life and his family. “I’m connected to my inner child. The old Fhat and the young Fhat are connected. And my ideas come from that, my life experience, what I enjoyed as a child.”
“And I find that that’s where the secret of life is. What you really, really loved as a child is exactly what will save you when you’re older, you know? I wouldn’t have imagined as a kid drawing and showing my mom my drawings and my dad, my drawings later in life, that I would be living off this thing.”
He admits he sometimes pinches himself. “Sometimes I do have imposter syndrome. And I say, what if, then it all stops. Then I go, what if I just keep going?”
Fhatuwani believes this kind of regular introspection is what sets people apart who are able to harness success. “That ability to step back and ask yourself questions brings accountability back to self.”
The importance of family
“It’s the biggest blessing to have a twin brother. It’s like a mirror, you know? He keeps me in check.”
His mother’s influence also looms large. “I have a life principle. I need to always be my mother’s child. And being my mother’s child is being the guy that I am when she’s in front of me. I need to be that throughout my whole existence and how I present myself to you, how I live or wake up. I can always measure it against: will my mom be proud of this?”
While he loves beautiful things and dressing well, he realises these are just material things. “They’re not your true north.”
Family also taught him a few life lessons. To never make assumptions. To be strong. To communicate clearly on what is expected of each party. To find purpose in one’s natural talents and passions. To find mentors and good friends to lean on. Affording your lifestyle without burdening your family.
Leaning in and learning every day
As a young man, he ended up in advertising through sheer grit. He did not have matric and lied about it on his CV to get an internship with an agency. One day, he got caught in his lie by HR and was fired and told to repay their investment into him. His manager however, defended him and instructed HR to give him a raise and a permanent contract – because of how hard and late he worked and all the awards he raked in. It was a watershed moment, literally, as tears rolled down his face.
Fhatuwani learnt the value of lifelong education. He learnt to invest in his passions so that he could live the life he wanted.
Five years ago, Fhatuwani was an entrepreneur with his own advertising agency and staff. Today he is a painter, a restaurateur and is constantly pushing himself to learn new skills. Even though the transition away from a regular paycheck scared him, he leaned into it and showed up for himself. “It’s taking that fear energy and converting it into a positive. The more I create, the more luck I make, the more work I’m creating and sharing.”
What makes him so comfortable with change? “I think the world is constantly evolving and as people, we need to evolve with the world, because you don’t know what the future holds.”
For now, his wealth goals are to travel, to show his mother, brother and sister beautiful places, and to keep making soul art. “Funny enough, wealth has nothing to do with money for me. Growing up in humble beginnings, I used to listen to a lot of music and there’s a guy who said, visualize wealth and put yourself in the picture.”
Fhatuwani’s final words of wisdom? “You need to be present, it’s flow. Wealth is flow.”
Don’t miss the next instalment of The Few, brought to you by Xapo Bank. Next, hip-hop artist Slikour will be telling us his story of passion and purpose in the world of music.
The Few, brought to you by Xapo Bank, explores the stories of four changemakers who march to their own beat. Theirs are the stories of unwavering belief. What we see in them, we see in ourselves. In Week 1 we were joined by tech entrepreneur Rapelang Rabana. This week we’re connecting with artist and entrepreneur Fhatuwani Mukheli. Next week tune in to hear from streetwear entrepreneur and DJ Vato Kayde. Finally, we’ll hear the tale of hip hop artist Siya Metane, better known in the music industry as Slikour. DM
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