TEN TALKS TO SAMUEL DE SABOIA
It’s Pride 2021, and Calvin Klein is celebrating defining moments in queer and trans journey, to continue the #proudinmycalvins movement. Photographed by Vivi Bacco in São Paulo, Samuel de Saboia (he/him) is one of the chosen faces of the campaign. A queer Afro-Indigenous Brazilian multimedia artist, Samuel is creating brilliant art that emphasises the urgent need for advocacy and bridge building within the queer community in his home country. In 2015, he had a life changing moment. "Once you go to the docks, it meant you were kind of free,” he says. “I had never kissed a guy until that moment. Heart pumping, like I could barely see my chest moving.” Moved by his moment, we spoke to Samuel about his journey:
Your story made us so happy. How did you feel after that first kiss? What did you learn from that moment?
“I felt fantastic, it was a very joyful moment until the bus ride back home, my hometown is filled with spaces that bring you to different dimensions and that kiss was definitely a portal to one of them. I learned about listening to different sides of me, to allowing beautiful (and a bit scaring) emotions to reach the surface.”
What at was it like growing up in Brazil? How has it shaped your work?
“Brazil is magnificence mixed with hardcore danger. Kids are electric, abundantly filled with joy but we do learn to masquerade pain at a very early age, it’s a tactic of survival. The love and beauty were a starting point, violence also came through, the beginning were very emotion centred many friends died almost at the same time, so it was to paint or to sink at first, with time I got more control, expand techniques and my visual vocabulary and were finally able to turn my art-making into both a glorious and safe space.”
How does it feel to be an artist within the LGBTQIA+ community in Brazil right now?
“Completely insane, but you get used to after several years. To get past 20 is already a huge thing to celebrate so part of my practice is to carve path for others. We deserve so much more but the government is insanely fascist and corrupt. To be someone that chooses art in my country is to defy their rules and ways of being. It does feels dangerous, so we became masters of creating bubbles and safe zones, it’s in our blood to build and serve as community to others.”
What do you wish people outside of Brazil knew about your current experience?
"I know they know about our existence and how much many have taken from us, so I want no gatekeeping for Latinos, Brazilians, to all the dolls and dreamers. It’s already a big job to maintain our existence so let’s collaborate more. There’s a wonderful, potent youth, battling daily to live and create, we were on the streets this past weekend amid a pandemic to fight for freedom as in many other countries around the world. It’s necessary that we also use the facets of globalism on our behalf, to expand and create bridges so we as people can take over and make life doable and possible to all of us.”
What change do you hope you are affecting?
“I work and exist on the now, so that’s what I see all around. We know about the future but our existence is not due tomorrow. My hope is within God and on the children, we are our ancestors dreams manifested, possibilities made reality so it’s also time for us to change the power structure. Artists can go through many trials and when you can create and live instead of barely surviving is marvellous, I want that to be the norm.”
What does it feel like to be part of such an important Calvin Klein campaign?
“It’s phenomenal, everyone involved from production to the cast are brilliant. It does feel a bit insane to create all of this while in Brazil and see it worldwide, the message now spreads instantly and it feels really nice to see how it reverberates.”
When was the first time you had that thrill of realising creating art was your purpose?
“On the beginning of my practice back in Recife when I first realised that my surrounds didn’t bothered me, that clothes, income, food, were all secondary because I was doing what I’m here to do.”
Do you have a favourite artwork you’ve created?
"Yeah, Me. The paintings are reflections of what goes on, ways to give a physical form to what’s inside. On a more strict sense I do love many pieces from my last show in Zurich, Mariposa, Innocent and A Bird Called Innocence are my top three.”
What’s next for you?
“I have a book coming on July, moving to Los Angeles in August and a residency in September. On the meantime it’s to keep evolving and do the best work on the arts. Visual Arts, Fashion, Music, Cinema, I just love to create and to become a vessel and I will do it forever, just a better version each time.”
How will you wear your Calvins?
“With a hot and sassy smile on my face.”