Video Mania!!

Here are just a few of the videos in my bookmarks:

Mugre & Cerok “Lucha libre”

Anarkia Boladona “Piece of Mind”

Bisy

Boosted Films Claw Money

Claw and Miss17 Interview

Eney

Few & Far X Ironlak Road Trip Tour 2012

Few and Far Miami Art Basel Behind the Scenes with AGANA

Girl Power movie Trailer

Indie x Karmaloop TV

Injah Painting

Janinné Nuz

Lineas // ZuriK Graffiti

Maripussy Crew 5PTZ 5.28.2011

Miss Van Sao Paulo 2013 VNA

Miss17 Graffiti

MRS Graffaholiks

Nish Cash

Naska

SAX

Shape

Solitas

Turronas Crew

Xalapa Sede del FEMINEM

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digging through my archives…Solitas

Who? Solitas, Doce Brillos Crew

Where? Santiago, Chile

When? August 2010

I met up with the lovely Solitas at her apartment in Santiago. I began with the usual “please tell me your tagname and when you got started,” to which she responded “I began experimenting with painting in 1999 and I take breaks only when it is necessary to prioritize caring for my daughter.” Just as we begin, her cellphone rings to the tune of “Big Poppa” and we are off to pick up her daughter.

Sitting at a restaurant a couple of hours later, after ordering some fried Chilean cuisine deliciousness, we continue our conversation:

Jess: Can you tell me about yourself, how you got started, what it’s like being a mother and a writer at the same time?

Solitas: I started painting graffiti with my friends—we love hip hop; my friends are rappers “pero la mujer no puede”…“she can’t paint graffiti.” I was the only woman in the crew. I got pregnant in the same summer I started seriously painting, so from 2001­–2003 I didn’t go out. I went to college for Sociology for those three years, but didn’t finish because I had to go to work to support myself and contribute to my family. Being a mom, a student, and a writer was just too much. I struggled against the idea that mothers have to “stay in the house” and cook and work and watch the kids…it is true that there is no time. We have responsibilities! There is no time! It’s difficult to do it all, but when you love something you have to make time for it. So in 2004, I made a come back. Painting graffiti is a necessary activity to keep me happy and fulfilled. For me, painting graffiti takes away the hard times. I use it to express and expel my frustrations. My graffiti used to be very aggressive, but now I am much more relaxed and trying to live a calm life inside a chaotic city. Everything is too fast and I don’t like it, I like more of a Bob Marley style.

Jess: Did someone say that you shouldn’t write, or that mothers shouldn’t write graffiti, directly to you? Or…?

Solitas [with a look of exasperation]: Everybody thinks that! I became very critical about my position [as a woman], I was always thinking about women and about the discrimination we encounter just because we are women. I paint to fight the resistance against girls doing graffiti. Everybody says women can’t paint graffiti and I say NO—there are other women in other places who feel the same as I do.

Jess: So that was in the early 2000’s, do you think that ideas about women writers are the same now?

Solitas: No, in this moment, I think that now it’s more inclusive and seen as a cool thing that women paint.

Jess: Why did that change?

Solitas: Ok, I think the fact of multiplication has changed ideas about women painting graffiti. Because more and more girls started painting, the boys are used to it now. Still today, here in Chile anyway, the men don’t consider us real competition. I am always fighting with those people, painting again and again. My characters are not angry, but the act itself is of resistance. Now is a relaxed time in my life. Before I was painting just letters—wildstyle with arrows and more puntas, but over time I’ve changed. I started painting characters…as a graffiti writer and a person I feel like I’ve grown. From letters to characters to 3D…my main motivation is to compete with the men on all levels. They say I’m prolific.

Jess: Tell me about your crew, it has men and women right?

Solitas: Doce Brillos is a young crew, 3 years old [now 5] with 12 members (hence, Doce). There are women and men, and the ideology that brings us together is anarchy against the system. The men in my crew have a real respect for women. There is no difference; it is very equal in my crew. But, in reality life is not equal. I think that a woman has to be a guerrera! A fighter! A warrior! Women are always fighting—she is going to work, she is taking care of kids, she has to do all of these things.  Many things at the same time! And that is why I consider myself a fighter. I fight for equality. I fight the government! I fight for a better place to live. I fight for environmental issues. I fight for a mountain of things!

Jess: After all you have said about your struggles as a woman, I wonder if you consider yourself a feminist?

Solitas: Am I just a feminist? No, but I think men and women are equal. I think that feminism says that women are better than men.

Jess: So how would you define feminism?

Solitas: The definition of feminism is complicated. I think that when we talk about feminism we have to think about it in relation to machismo. My mother in law is a feminist. Strong women are raising my daughter. I am a political person. I went to school for sociology. My father is a communist, and so I was raised as a leftist. My mother is neutral. I am always thinking about social equality, but when I was teenager I was a little crazy and didn’t really focus on it. When I started painting it was inside of me, but I didn’t paint for that reason.

Jess: Chile has two bad ass all female crews [Crazis and Turronas]. What are your thoughts on women-only crews?

Solitas: When I look around I see a mixed world, a mixed life. In my life, I seek equality…rights, opportunities and I do not like the divisions. I do not like the idea of crews just for women or just for men only. At the same time, I seek equality, I seek liberty…I want a liberated system and for each person to be who he or she is, according to their needs. I respect each of the writers in the world and I value what the all female crews and the work they do. I send a big kiss to both crews!

Jess: Going back to how your graffiti career got started…do you think that your love for hip hop culture has anything to do with your identity? I mean, what is hip hop to you? What does it do for you?

Solitas: Hip hop is protest. Hip hop is a way to comment on the wrong things in the world. It is bboys and mcs, djs and graffiti writers. I think it has a lost a little of the fight that was in it. I grew up listening to Public Enemy. Hip hop is a weapon. A strong weapon. And I think that people have forgotten what hip hop is about. Hip hop is to speak against the system! So to do that is not good hip hop. I think 50 Cent is hip hop for many people but for me, no. I think that our collective, our hip hop group, is combative. It’s a battle. When I was painting alone or with my husband, the graffiti was more simple, more color, and more beautiful. But when I am painting with my crew the graffiti changes. I will do a sketch and generally the image is against the system—it has a battle message. The machine is broken. My graffiti is a way of breaking the chains of oppression. The message, the image is strong. Painting with my crew transforms my message. For me, the collective, the crew is power. There is power in community and collectivity. And we are more critical towards other graffiti crews. We do not work with the government and the government funds productions for other crews. We can’t critique the government if we are working for them! Everybody does what they want. If you don’t critique them then there is no problem. They don’t criticize the government and so it doesn’t matter to them, but I do!

Jess: Do you have a message for aspiring writers out there?

Solitas: My message is: if you want to, you can! There are many difficulties in life. You can say “oh, I have problems with this and that and I don’t have time and I don’t have money, but if you really want to do something then make it happen. Nothing else matters. Try to be happy. Try to be happy without money, without work, without Nike sneakers. Come back to the natural way of life!

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*Much like Alma, Solitas and I have about the same level of language fluency (opposite of course: hers, Spanish, mine, English), so this interview was conducted in some kinda Spanglish.

digging through the archives…Alma

So here is the first of many archived interviews I will post in no particular order…maybe alphabetical? 😉

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Who? Alma

Where? La Chimba Hostel, Santiago, Chile (go there, best hostel ever)

When? August 2010

Jess: Thanks for meeting me Alma! Can you tell me a bit about yourself and how you got started?

Alma: I have been a graffitera since 2005, before that I didn’t paint graffiti (only tags) but in 2005 I painted for the first time with Shape. Graffiti caught my attention. I paint dark-skinned women. At one time I considered doing only letters, but I realize that I have a lot to learn. I have a little old lady I always paint with necklaces. I am just starting. I have to learn how to perfect the letters and characters. I am self-taught.

Jess: You didn’t mention a crew, does that mean you paint alone?

Alma: I don’t have a crew. I don’t like it. I’d rather be free to paint with whomever I want. I like to engage in whatever I want to do. I’d rather be solo so I can paint with anybody.

Jess: I was wondering why you were not part of Crazis or Turronas. There seems to be a community of women writers here.

Alma: There are very few women who paint, like 15-20 maximum. We are good friends. But the two big crews, Crazis and Turronas, they are all women. The rest paint alone. Turronas and Crazis are super good and important. They are real tight as a crew too cause they are all really good friends. And that is wonderful! They are real good at and motivated in what they do. Crazis and Turronas in particular have different styles and represent a diversity of styles and gender perspectives as well. Each individual writer in each crew has her own personality, her own reasons for painting, and her own perspectives but they all know how to paint. Both crews also have female members of the old school graffiti scene. I’ve had the opportunity to paint with a couple of crew members separately, but never with the whole crew. I really like the existence of 100% female crew, but I do not know if it is translating into greater participation.  I mean, groups of men are still more in number. It will take more time for the crews of women to become equal with men. I also think it would be positive for women to participate in all-male crews in terms of generating greater gender equality. Actually that might be more inclusive than the crew of only girls, but I sympathize more for the latter, I like the idea of female power.

Jess: I know that Shape (Crazis) is a b-girl, so were you part of the Santiago hip hop scene as well?

Alma: I like hip hop, but I wasn’t a participant in the movement. I was a spectator. I have friends that are rappers. I liked painting! Graffiti really called to me. I noticed there weren’t many women. Graffiti and hip hop in Chile was always for men, a thing they do, b-boying, rapping, graffiti—for the boys, for the men. But another aspect of it, it is difficult—it takes physicality, force, speed, aggressiveness. This is why men don’t want to bring the women. Men have basically taken over graffiti. They think they are stronger, can climb a ladder faster, and carry more things. Women can do those things equally, but differently. We are always going to be different when we are rapping, painting, or dancing. I always felt like rap and breakdancing were out of reach for me, something difficult. I represent rap and graffiti. I like other things but rap is what moves me. Graffiti is an expression, an art. My graffiti is never a political or social thing, but it is about the transformation of things. Transforming the city, transforming as a person. Now that I am not in college and have a career, I can’t paint as much as I’d like to. You aren’t supposed to do graffiti because of the system, like the law, but there is nobody that can tell me where or when or why, I just do it. It is a personal process. I paints murals about 5 times a year. Bombing happens everyday, anytime.  But graffiti productions are different. I don’t have a lot of experience with productions, but I want to dedicate myself to it. I hope that one day I have more time to do graffiti because it is relaxing and pleasurable. I get real frustrated with wanting to do it more, but then the frustration motivates me. When I paint graffiti it is something like a dream. I feel free when I paint graffiti. Especially when someone comes up to me and says I can’t do that. In those moments, I feel like the other person just doesn’t understand. I can’t understand why there are regulations I feel so happy that I can do different things. I have a routine, but I can escape the routine to do other things.

Jess: Do you think you are treated differently as a woman?

Alma: It depends if it is dangerous on the legality and the type of graffiti. If you are painting as a woman people don’t arrest you as much as men, they give you a chance whereas a man will get arrested.  They don’t bother me. When I am painting and a police officer comes up they say it is beautiful. Some of the police are a little harder on graf writers than regular ones—state police versus regular police. There are degrees of legality depending on which space you are painting. You have to know how to handle yourself with them.

Jess: I see. So, just to go back for a second, you think graffiti is part of hip hop culture?

Alma: I can recognize hip hop in the movement. I can dance to it, I can paint to it. I do not get tired of it, I am always in love with it. I hope that hip hop doesn’t go away. Alma: Hip hop is charming. Like falling in love. Hip hop is a love and a way of life. Hip hop is a style of clothing and a persona. I’m in love with hip hop.

Jess: Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Alma: Yes I am feminist. Because I think that women, as a group or as individuals, have overcome those things that women are not supposed to do. I feel liberated now. This is a historical time for women. I feel as though we won because we are equal to men now. I am a feminist because I can do things as a woman. We are the same, but different. Today women can live by themselves and be alone and do the things men can do. We can have a family without having a man. We have major opportunities today. Men were created from a woman, so they too have this type of woman in their lives—whether it is their mother or grandmother. There is a lot of machismo, but the mother and the grandmother made him that way because they raised them that way. Today we can do a lot of things, we can travel, we can be a mother, we can have responsibilities. We have overcome a lot of things. We don’t need men, there is a limit to what we need men for. We have more autonomy.

Jess: So how would you define feminism?

Alma: My idea is that in today’s world we have equal opportunities as men. I don’t want to be a man, but I want those opportunities! I accept men for their weaknesses and their strengths. At times it is complicated. You have to appreciate and value the opportunities we have because of feminism. We can vote. We can work. We can’t be criticized because we can do the things that men can do today. The characteristics of a woman or a man, our sexuality. Homosexuals and transsexuals are born that way. A man could be a feminist, he could be feminine. A woman could want to be a man too. I do not discriminate. The big problem is that we live in a society where that isn’t accepted. I understand it, but society doesn’t.

Jess: Do you have a message for aspiring writers out there?

Alma: The message I have for women is to just go for it. Like throwing yourself in a pool even if you can’t swim. I made many twists and turns before I started, but after I dedicated myself to it, it was monumental. There is no bad in it, just go for it. Motivate yourself and paint. To do it is to learn. If you can paint with graffiti with another woman that’s ideal because then you can share ideas and styles. You can learn how to do it together.

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*Alma and I have about the same level of language fluency (opposite of course: hers, Spanish, mine, English), so the interview was conducted in some kinda Spanglish and edited to keep her voice in tact to the best of my ability.