The important role that a father/father figure plays is one to be appreciated as we enter into the special month dedicated to loving fathers. Here in Barbados, my photographer, Amery Butcher, and I sought out to find fathers with a deep love for their children while they themselves remained stylish.
I had the pleasure to sit down with two dads, Jawade Elibox and Rhaj Paul while they effortlessly entertained their curious, baby girls. Who said dads couldn’t multi-task?
Jawade, the introverted and humble graphic designer exuded a particular je ne sais quoi during our interview. Though very chill and modest about his style, “I don’t think my style is crazy; I’m simple and nonchalant about it”, he says, “style can be used to speak very loudly about you the individual or the individual you want to be seen as”, boy was he right because the first thing that stood out to me when I saw him were his shoes. But let’s not forget the adorable 14 month old baby, Paige who had the cutest furrowed browed expression on her face as daddy carried her in his arms.
The profound, wise man that is Rhaj Paul calmly disclosed before the interview, that his daughter, Harmoni Sky’s hair had to be done and he was in fact uncertain of what to do. Needless to say doing it, hair gel and all took him a while. But funny enough, a while into taking photos after our interview on the beach, Harmoni innocently covered herself, hair included in sand. It was at this moment we knew, we got the shot. Many know him as the fashionable Rhaj Paul for his striking beard and clothing line, Evolve. As he got his daughter ready, all the while making ‘goo goo ga ga’ noises, the same sounds his wife, Kashia regularly laughs at him for making, we got ready to interview this father-daughter pair.
Growing up on a small island, back in the ‘good ole days’, Barbados was much like one big community where growing up in the church was customary and the importance of family was cultured.
What was it like growing up in Barbados?
Jawade: Barbados is my home and I love it. I was raised in the late 90s so growing up in Barbados during that time was a lot different compared to now. I was raised a Christian so special events at that time for me were going to church and visiting family (still is). Relationships between family and friends were a lot less digital and more tactile. I grew up with real life mentors around me, and got a lot of time to appreciate different types of personalities and skills. My family gave me the space I needed to find myself. Society was so different then there was a lot less pressure..everyone is in a rush now.
Rhaj: To me my upbringing was just as regular as everyone else’s, everybody was everybody. The kids would play football, pick dunks, make rock guns, shoot gutter perks, chase wood doves and ride to the beach every Sunday. I enjoyed my childhood. But I also came up a lot in the church too and it certainly seemed safe where there was this extended family who looks out for you. Though I am not religious really – my religion is love, still I would like my daughter, Harmoni Sky to visit church perhaps with her uncle and aunts (or granmamas) and enjoy the church family feeling. There is a really good vibe that I got from church as a child that I would like her to experience. She’s got her own mind so that’s cool. In fact she might be good for church too!
What is an important thing you learned from your father/father figure that has always stuck with you?
Jawade: Word hard. He is a contractor so every night when he got in from work I would help him carry his parcels and tools in, during this time he would sometimes tell me about his challenging day and how the sun/rain treated him. As a child, it just sounded like dad was whining but the older I got and the more I went to work with him I then had empathy and was able to understand what my dad does and how excellent of a trouble shooter he is.
Rhaj: Is peaceability a word? My dad is so chill, he is a very zen dude without even trying. I definitely absorbed some of that from him even though he does look like a serious guy. My friends would come to me after school and say ‘man your dad is there, I think he’s vex, you better get going’ and I would go to him and he would be fine. He was always very thoughtful, working things out a lot in his mind and observing and I definitely got that from him. He was a man of much equanimity. Words! Yes, words! He was a science and math teacher but he loved language and writing so half of the time when I asked what a word meant, he would tell me the definition, origin and usage. And the rest of the time he would tell me to go look it up myself! That did me good, just look my tee-shirt line, Brand EVOLVE is a word-art or logotype brand.
What do you wish to give your daughter that you never had as a child?
Jawade: I never had the latest or the most expensive, however, I don’t necessarily feel obligated to grant her those things now ‘cause I didn’t have them. I actually wish to grant her the same I got growing up, and that was gratitude, although she already seems to have expensive taste, she likes playing with wallets and purses but my wallet is usually empty too bad for her [laughs].
Rhaj: I would let her understand from as early as she can grasp, how the mind works. A way of looking at ideas, not just looking at people and things but to consider ideas and break them down and understand how to apply certain principles to solving issues. I will help her grow the awareness that what is inside of her is true..to trust herself.. and that inside of her is wisdom already there waiting for her to unearth it. I’d love to give her an international kid modelling contract too! Haha! That would be dope!
What did you expect fatherhood to be like?
Jawade: When my wife was pregnant everyone said “you haven’t experienced love until you have a baby”. That is true somewhat, it’s a different kind of love. Fatherhood exposed my weakness and my strengths. I remember just being anxious to meet her. I imagined that we would’ve had similar personalities, but we don’t, she has a lot of input at 1 and makes a lot of independent decisions that I can’t even make, like choosing what to eat.
Rhaj: I was completely open to what it could be like. I decided to stay cool and roll with the novelty. I remember though when I was at college, I started thinking about parenthood and what I should know in order to be good at it. I realised the ultimate thing I could do to prepare myself for parenthood was to become the person I really wanted to be. Can I become completely comfortable within myself? I wanted to be someone who is happy within me, someone that feels like who I am is someone I could share. So I better focus and get to that place as best I can! Children don’t just take in your words and actions, you know, they take in your attitude, your life, your vibe. In the early stage they pattern you, naturally. And once I began to think like this, superficial girls weren’t the ones I was attracted to anymore. I thought about a partner and I became more interested in girls who thought for themselves, were open minded, kind, and still had style! Just like my wife Kashia. That chick don’t follow, she leads. And that’s the kind of girl I figured I could make a good parent team with and I was right!
What do you most enjoy about being a dad?
Jawade: She is at the stage where she thinks pulling everything out of the garbage is fun, so I’m weirdly enjoying this stage. I enjoy the kisses, the infectious smiles. Her vocabulary gamut expands daily and that fascinates me. I’m developing some concepts to build her a go-kart (of course her mother doesn’t know this as yet). I’m just trying to absorb everything about her daily.
Rhaj: We haven’t played this game for a little while, *blub blub noise* but she would just be there making these sounds and then I would mimic her in a different pitch *drifts off* isn’t that right baby? She makes me smile deep inside, it’s so weird to me…and so lovely I can’t really articulate it. Fatherhood is some awesome shit fam! Real. She’s only a year old but I really look forward to having conversations with her so I can see what she has to teach me, to help me remember what I may have forgotten when adulting took over.
What are some special moments (or special traditions) you have had with your daughter?
Jawade: I give her a bath on mornings so we have this thing we do when we are finished that is like a rocket ‘take off’ out of the tub. Then she gets in her room and I have to chase her, of course by now I’m late for work.
Rhaj: We haven’t done it for a little while, *blub blub noise* but she would just be there making noises and then I would do it so that she could hear the pitch *drifts off* isn’t that right baby? She makes me smile deep inside, it’s so weird to me and so lovely I can’t really articulate it. Fatherhood is so awesome, shit fam! Real.
Special thanks to Jawade and Rhaj for opening up to me about the beauty of fatherhood and to Amery for capturing the genuine moments between father and daughter.