God of Gold
A poet, a screenwriter, an actor, a model, a scholar, and a fashion designer, Sejahari Saulter-Vilegas is a Black-Mexican multidisciplinary artist from Chicago. He is the master of his narrative and a voice for our generation, always aiming to nuance social commentary through various artistic outlets. Apart from being to express himself in multiple ways, Sejahari is a father and a student at New York University, a true beacon for his contemporaries.
What do you aim to represent in your work?
Every piece of work I create is an attempt towards liberation. Every piece of work I create strives to reimagine a world where freedom exists for everyone. My work represents the now, is the product of my past, and is a manifestation of what I want the future to look like or not look like. RACE To The Finish, my full length play that was produced by Tischâ€™s Mainstage, The Kennedy Center, and the Pegasus Theater, follows two victims of police violence in a skewed afterlife where both contestants are competing for a ticket to heaven. This piece asks the audience to reflect on the absurdity of whiteness and its impacts on the black body.
With overt pop culture references, the crowd is confronted with the sad reality that America has a lot of growing to do before we can call it the land of the free. I think, as a Blaxican artist, father, partner, son, I am always thinking about the word â€œfree.â€ How can I use art to inch us closer to that feeling? How, in the process of creating art in solitude or collaboratively, do I generate the feeling of freedom?
What influenced your new clothing line?
When my daughter, Zanairo, was born, I began to ask myself what it is that I want to leave with her when Iâ€™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.Â
Itâ€™s insane but there is this confidence that she alludes at the age of 1 years old that I am still trying to attain. Itâ€™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 â€œgâ€ sweaters. The g exists as this double entendre. On one hang this â€œgâ€ 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!
How do identity politics and intersectionality shape your artistic practice?
My identity informs how I navigate the world. My art is a translation of that navigation. It is the medium in which I choose to explain my journey in this Father, Black, Mexican, Male, Student, Lover, Son, Artist, Revolutionary body. My art and my identity will never be mutually exclusive. They belong togetherrrr. Word to Mariah Carey.
Why is representation important?
Representation is important because liberation looks like a world where all people are equal, where all people are heard, where all people are honored, where all people are praised for the excellence, where all people have a seat at the table and do not have to be grateful for being there. Representation matters because the world belongs to everyone, and everyone needs to know that. Through representation, people see themselves in places they otherwise would not have had the opportunity remained limited to a certain kind of person.
In what ways is it important to break away from the binaries of oppression and liberation? In what ways does your work seek to break from these binaries, OR highlight them?
I feel like I answered this in the first question. But as it pertains to binaries of oppression and liberationâ€¦ I believe that Liberation is always the goal. Liberation is what leads the work. Liberation is what keeps hope. And anytime you are leading with liberation, you are working against oppression, and you are not stuck in it.
How did the quarantine period impact you as an artist?
I think the biggest revelation Iâ€™ve had during Quarantine is that family, love, and God are the most important. If I focus on those things, my creativity will come, and it will be limitless.
What do you aim to bring into fruition in the future?
In the coming year, I will be officially launching my clothing brand, God of Gold. I will be producing, directing and acting in my first film Pretty Boy which follows a young poet who ventures into the modeling industry and finds that his body is objectified and exploited in the same ways this country has objectified and exploited our bodies for centuries.
I will be getting ready for my move to the UK, where I will be earning my Masters in Black Humanities at the University of Bristol as Marshall Scholar. I will be earning my undergraduate degree from NYU Tisch (finally), and I will be basking in joy, love, and creativity!
To help Sejahari realize his production, you can donate to his GoFundMe: Pretty Boy Short Film Production Fundraiser
To connect with Sejahari you can follow him on Instagram