Live like an American boy. Dress like an American boy. Listen to music like an American boy. Eat like an American boy.
Switzerland; a shallow kiddies pool in comparison to the vast open waters of the golden promised land. Drenching the world in ideals and expectations, luring in wide-eyed, hopeful youths the same way sailors were tempting their fates upon rocky crevices to reach the desirable Sirens on the rocks. Rabbi Mfutankatu spent his years growing up in a small Swiss town, nurturing the desire to broaden his knowledge of culture and satisfy his ever-growing wanderlust. Life doesn’t always go the way you expect it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.
In his home, a haven of safety and serenity, his eyes are gentle - a visible yearning to learn and to experience more. Enriched with his family’s Congolese heritage entwined with a traditional Swiss upbringing, Rabbi’s life has already been a multicoloured spectrum of exciting cultural experiences. An embodiment of youth culture today - fun and carefree, with ample passion and drive to succeed, revelling in the sheer beauty of it all the while. Sparse open planes and snow capped mountains transform into the concrete jungle that is New York, a completely different landscape with drastically different horizons. A buzz reverberates around his being; childlike energy, enthused by the pure joy of reminiscing back to the revelation of his beginning.
Photographer Nadia Tarra takes up position behind the lens to capture Rabbi in his most natural environment among the vibrant streets of Switzerland. Warm tones complement his charming personality and accentuate his African features; a strong man with a playful boyish attitude. Exposure to the unknown, thrilling excitement encapsulating the mind. Ample opportunities and possibilities unveiled on the accidental discovery of his path, he is only at the beginning of his brand new journey, inspired by, but not your typical ‘American boy’.
How would you describe yourself?
I would describe myself as a funny guy who loves making jokes, even if it doesn’t really seem it. In my photographs I just always look really serious.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about fashion. I think that started when I was quite young too, because my sister works as a stylist and I reckon she probably transmitted a bit of that onto me. Football as well. I’m very passionate about football, especially Chelsea FC.
What is it like growing up in Switzerland?
Growing up in Switzerland was really great. It is a very safe and quiet environment, with tonnes of green space for playing and hanging with friends. And of course the mountains are beautiful, especially for skiing. I had the chance to live within two cultures growing up, the first was the Congolese, which was installed by my family and heritage, and the Swiss side of me was the routine I was living every day.
How do you find the young generation in Switzerland different to other places you have lived, like New York?
I say it year after year that the differences between the young generation here and the young generation in New York are starting to disappear. We are such a small country and all eyes are turned in the direction of America or the UK all he time, and so we try to live like them. You can clearly see this in the music or the similar styles, we are so heavily influenced by them here.
What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is like art for me. Within fashion you can express everything from your feelings to your personality.
What makes "good fashion"?
For me "good fashion" is when you follow the codes and conventions of the standard fashion world and trends, particularly the things you like, and adding your own special touch and individuality to it. If you feel good in your clothes with these two things, you’re well on the way of achieving "good fashion”.
What are the benefits of being young today?
I think young people today have more time to think about, create and develop their dreams. I feel like there are more opportunities available to you being young now than there were 10 years ago.
What are the struggles of being young today?
Young people I feel are not taken seriously by society for some things. For example, trying to explain to somebody who doesn’t work within or is necessarily interested in the fashion world, that you want to become a model, they like to seem to tell you that "it's not a real goal”, that "real goals are to become lawyer or doctor". I think it’s the same problem for a lot of artistic workers and those working within creative industries nowadays.
You mention Kanye West as your favorite artist?
To begin, in the music world, he is a genius. He has kept the same high level during the last 10 years. I think he's a complete artist, even if he doesn't know how to dance, haha. As well as that, in the fashion world, he has continued to thrive despite the constant criticism he suffered at the beginning and look at him now. Yeezy is a recognised and respected name.
How do you feel celebrities impact the world today? Is this a good thing?
Oh, that’s a difficult question. I feel it depends and changes with each celebrity. Some celebrites don't have good values, those who promote drugs or criminality for example, it's not exactly the best thing they could be doing. But when they transmit a good and more positive message it’s relayed and received really well, because of their stance and position in society. We just have to remember that thinking by ourselves and not being so easily influenced by the actions and words of others is better.
Do you think the world is becoming a smaller place?
Yes, most definitely! Now we’ve discovered pretty much the whole of the world, it definitely doesn’t seem so large any more. Globalisation as well has had a great contribution in making the world feel a smaller place. Everything is everywhere instantaneously and everyone has the same things too. In some ways I think it’s such a good thing, but it does have its limitations.
How do you want to be remembered?
All I want to be remembered as is as a good person, someone who has made a difference for the people that follow, whether that be a large group of people of just a few.
Words by Brogan Anderson