- Inner Voice Artists
Good afternoon, YouthMundees! At YouthMundus, we aim to not only be a platform for music, film and global change, but for the artists and global changemakers who create them. Our Artist Spotlight series aims to create a space for discovery of new, budding global talent, while simultaneously offering you an exclusive glimpse into their creative process. For Sejahari Saulter-Villegas, art and activism have always worked in tandem. As a multidisplinary artist and entrepreneur, he uses his platforms to provide social commentary, working to uplift and elevate marginalized voices.
You’ve been vocal about the connection between your identity, poetry, and hair. Can you elaborate more on that?
To me, my identity and my art will never be mutually exclusive. If I am speaking my truth, which I aim to do in my poetry and all of the art I create, my identity is a part of it. I know some artists who hate that idea and believe that we should be able to separate the art from the artist. They believe that this is restricting to the artist and that it confines people’s perceptions of their work. Frankly, I don’t care. If my identity blurs people’s perception of my work, then maybe it should, and maybe that is something that they need to unpack for themselves. All that being said, I am a BLACK artist. I am a MEXICAN artist. I am a CIS-MALE artist. And it is what it is.
How do you believe your activism and art work together?
Growing up in Chicago, performing at protests, rallies, and community events, I never knew the artist to not be an active change maker. It’s sort of funny to me because when I got to NYU and continued doing that type of work, the administration saw me as a threat, radical, or whatever other words white institutions use to demonize people of color who are fighting to be treated like human beings. Anyway, as I was being perceived this way, I really just thought I was doing what all artists are supposed to do. We are supposed to challenge systems. We are supposed to disrupt toxic norms. We are supposed to be the voice of the voiceless. It is our super power! That’s why I love being an artist. It gives me the power to say or do what many are scared to.
You recently launched God of Gold Clothing Brand. Tell us about the brand, the inspiration, the mission, and how it relates to your art.
When my daughter, Zanairo, was born, I began to ask myself what it is that I want to leave with her when I’m gone. I know that may sound a bit morbid, but as a father, I am always thinking about what I have to to give to my daughter, whether that be love, knowledge, a teddy bear, or anything in between. However, when I realized that generational wealth was something I wanted to pass down to Zanairo, my entrepreneurial spirit truly came to life. God of Gold is a brand born from the birth of my first born. Her name, Zanairo, literally meaning God of Gold, was the inspiration for the name of the brand. Her name is where I began, but it was her personhood that really brought the idea to life. My daughter shifted my understanding of being, of light, of joy, of God, and I wanted to somehow translate her aura into clothing. Her presence is powerful.
It’s insane but there is this confidence that she alludes at the age of 1 years old that I am still trying to attain. It’s like she came into this world knowing exactly who she is and why she is here. When People wear the brand, I want them to feel as confident as she is. I want them to shine as bright as she does. I want the brand to speak to that effortless Godliness and pure soulfulness that exists in everyone when we are first born. My daughter also has this toughness to her. She is unafraid of almost everything. In fact, I think the only thing she is afraid of is going into the crib when it's time for bed lol. But I say this to say that while the brand speaks to this inner child and Godly tenderness, there is also an element of the brand that is strong, and loud, and powerful. This is why I started my designs with the “g” sweaters. The g exists as this double entendre. On one hand this “g” refers to the Godliness in us, and on the other hand it refers to the grit, the power, the gang member in us. Because we are all about a gang right? Our people, our family, our ancestors are our gang. Also, the sweater is also making the statement that God is the most powerful gang member of them all yafeel? And when I refer to God, I mean any higher being, energy, creator spirit that you believe in. So yeah, at the core of the brand is a mission to promote your inner Godliness and shine at all times!
Do you have any advice for future artists and activists who want to follow in your steps?
“It is our duty to fight. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains” - Assata Shakur
Any upcoming projects, gigs, shows, events, etc.
I am working on a short film entitled Pretty Boy which follows an aspiring poet with empty pockets who takes a stab at the modeling industry and learns that his body can grant him a lifestyle that his words cannot. He battles with his own agency to stand up against the exploitation, fetishization, and objectification of his body, while trying to financially survive as an artist in the big city. I will also be launching my first collection with God of Gold Clothing, and I am currently working with a collective of artists from Chicago with hopes of producing projects that include fashion shows, music projects, healing sessions and more!
KEEP UP WITH SEJAHARI ON HIS INSTAGRAM, AND DON'T FORGET TO CHECK OUT THE GOD OF GOLD ONLINE SHOP AND INSTAGRAM
Thank you all so much for your continued support. We look forward to bringing you the voice of more inspiring artists and changemakers in 2021.
Stay safe! Lots of love, #Team IVA Interview by conducted & written by Naomi Segal