He is starring in the latest advertisement of a huge fashion brand, born in Brasil, raised in Angola and Paris Sauka Ali Pedro truly has a different perspective on life. During our two hour interview he decided to not speak about his amazing artwork but instead give us an insight on his state of mind and, what it means to educate yourself.
To all the people that don’t know who you are; can you please introduce yourself?
“I was born in Brasil, Bahia. My parents met eachother in school. Angola is an old conalization of Portugal so as an Angolan my parents could study in Brasil; their story started there. I have seven siblings, we moved to Angola where we lived for three years.”
How did your international past form you as a human being?
“It was hard. My father is African but has the spirit of an South American, my mother is really African so we grew up with two cultures and when we came to Europe it was really hard. The kids back home where more mature and we clashed in school. When I went to school in Paris it was really difficult, kids can be very mean. It took a long time before I got used to life in Europe. We came to the west with a wartrauma. I don’t like to talk about it but yes we saw a lot of people getting killed, my nephew was murdered in front of me.”
How did your family made it out?
“Well Dos Santos was fighting against Savimbi, d=the opposition. My family was with the opposition so we had a different life than most people. When you look at young people who where poor they had a different look in their eyes. We fled the country by boat, it was a very dangerous situation but we made it out alive.”
This is incredible. I did notice that you are very comfortable in your own skin by dancing and martial arts. when did you discover that you where so flexible?
“This has to do with my education; life in Brasil or Angola makes you a strong person. It is really part of my education. I only know how to move forward and develop yourself. I decided to challenge myself and develop myself. It is in your control it has to do with your own motivation. So when I was young my dad made us do a lot of activities that we didn’t learn in school. So from a young age we learned that we could learn more about ourself outside school. If you believe in yourself you can do a lot of things. It makes me sad to see people not believing in themselves.”
How do you build your confidence?
“You have to take it one step at the time. I reflect and learn from my mistakes. If you do the work and you lose that is okay as long as you get up again. I did martial arts and that really helped me to trust myself and build a confidence. If you want to be a champion you have to focus and work hard on yourself.”
When did it became less difficult for you; life in Europe?
“When I was 18 I was in Germany. So all the difficulties that I encountered made me very lonely. We couldn’t understand the difference in culture; we thought it was really crazy. But when I was 17/18 I understood why they were acting like that. Maby they where scared? Maby they don’t know what war is? We had three years of war in our head, it was really difficult but the teacher was understanding. My father said something when I was young wich is true; when you are an emigrant you have to work ten times harder. And it is true.”
You work as a freelance model and a lot of people find the modeling-industry very superficial. How did you start modelling?
“I love education but my brother was modelling. He asked me to come with him and we posed together and than the guys said that I should pursue it. I was like why not? So I loved it in the beginning and when I started doing it professionally it changed; i didn’t like it anymore. I just do the work. I am very honest. In the fashion-industry I am completely opposite than who I really am. You need to be smart in business. People can be fake so if you understand their motives you need to know how to respond to them. A lot of people are running for something; they want to be the best. I don’t run for the money, I don’t run hard to be in magazines; I like doing it. If you look at my career than I know I could do a lot more projects but because of my mouth…. It didn’t work like that. People can be so rude in this industry. They can threat you like you’re less than human. If someone is really interested in you they will ask about your life; brothers and sisters, your background etc. I refuse to surround myself with people who speak or act incorrect. This is my personality. The little things do matter.”
What do you mean by saying the little things do matter?
“The stupid little things like being polite. When you ask me something say ‘please’. I am human. I give you respect so expect it back in respons. Some people can’t give what they don’t have. If you never learned how to be polite in life you can’t do it. When I’m with a person for example and he or she is rude; one time, two times, I will make a mental note of that and realise that this person isn’t educated. I don’t have to confront them or feel bad about it; I just keep it moving. So being intelligent and using your skills is very importing.”
How did you become so honest?
“I don’t know how to be different. To be honest, I am a loner. I work alone, I shop alone; I do anything by myself. I don’t have a lot of friends and I have been here for three years. It is strange because we humans need eachother to grow. A lot of the time people forget their roots. I remember where I came from so if I don’t like you or I don’t want to work with you I just say NO. Why do I have to give you an explanation? It is important to stay true to yourself instead of going along with wat other people want.”
Do you consiously think about what you are communicating with your authentic style?
“My style is my identity. You can see what my personality is like. Some people would say I look Frenchie or like an Italian but thats not the case. The artists and movies I like influence me. What I eat, what I read, who I interact with; the music I listen to for example jazz, my roots lie in Africa so a lot of second hand clothes is normal for me. The way the communist used to dress; I love their style. You don’t need money to look great. The old Angolese men, Malcolm X, Marthin Luther King, Mubutu; yes he killed a lot of people, I don’t support that but if you think about it a lot of politicians in the West do that without being sentenced, but this man became president and started with nothing; he wasn’t born into royalty. That is powerful.”
How do you deal with the fact that a lot of people believe you are out of their reach?
“A lot of people think I have a lot of money but thats not true. Or they think that I hate Africans… this is my roots. Especially Africans have a hard time being my friend. It’s a pitty that a lot of people might have a wrong image of me. People love you if you are being negative. I will always be positive and a lot of people find that anoying. I don’t need a lot of friends. It’s difficult if people can’t see past their own thoughts. I wan’t to know whats inside peoples heart and I wish they would do the same. I mean, I want to grow and develop myself in Holland.”
You refer a lot to your education and I wanted to know if you’re talking about schoolsystem or something else?
“I’m talking about the education we learn outside of school. How you need to be. For example, when I say hallo to a woman I take of my hat. It is polite to do that. People think I’m crazy. But I need to be myself. Its the same thing with racsisme, it is everywhere black people can be racsist with eachother to, it is about how you handle the situation; how do you react to it? You need to think about what the story is behind the person you are dealing with; maby they are scared of the culture, scared of a person that can speak another language, or maby it is the first time they see a black man? A lot of people get stuck at ‘I’m a victim of racsisme’ and they don’t grow because of that mentality.”
If you look at our country and the black-pete-is-racisme campaign. What are your thoughts on that?
“When people do business, colour doesn’t matter. Meany young people might not believe that. Look at Marocco for example a lot of jews build there hotels and such. Jews and Arabs hate eachother. At least that is what the majority think; but they do business together. I understand that the black people in Holland are angry but they do not support eachother anyways. I don’t look at rascisme, yes it exsict but in Africa you have it to everbody is rascist. It is a selfesteemcomplex. You can make yourself inferior only with your permision. Black people don’t support eachother they rather break your legs than to see you succeed.”
Where do you think this way of relating to eachother started because a lot of people aren’t aware of it?
“We are the only race that don’t put our money into our community. This is a huge problem; we are the only group that do that. And when we look to the Carribean a lot of them don’t know where they come from; their roots doesn’t lie in South Amercia. Black people in Holland have a identity-problem. They don’t know where they come from so they don’t know where to go.”
When I look at you I see flexible person; physically and mentally as wel. Whatever I throw at you, you always seem to find a solution. How do your mind and body work together?
“I would like to teach this to black young people in the future. My bodylanguage is everything. When you have a job interview everything that happens in the first few seconds; the way you cary yourself, shake someones hand, say your name it does matter in the decsision making proces. So we need more black intelligent people who are aware of themselves thats the only way to kill racsisme. One wise person like that is better than ten sleeping managers. When you know who you are you become very powerful.”
Bruce Lee has a remarkable qoute that really resonates with what you are living. “I fear not the man who has practiced 10.000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10000 times.” What are your daily routines like?
“I have a lot of rituals. Every morning I ask myself the right questions. What did make me happy yesterday? What did I do good? What did I do wrong? I think about the people I encountered with. This is part of my development. I can apologise if I feel like it and I will wright them an email for example. In the evening I reflect on today to prepare for tomorrow. Cultuvating my inner peace. Everything I can’t control I let go of. Everything is a lesson or a experience. Thats how I see it.”
What is the most beautifull quality you have?
“I have a lot of love. With my family and within myself. I would say love definitly. It is something that I can give fully and cultivate within myself.”
How did the relationship with you partner started?
“In France. She is an artist. We used to dance together back in France. Everything needs to start af with friendship. We spent a lot of hours dancing together. I grew up dancing so it was part of my education. In my family we have a lot of writers, dancers and artists in general.
I didn’t look for my dance career just like my modelling career. It beautiful how your life unfolds if you live in love in stead of fear. I want to see a world were there is ethnic diversity everywhere. I want to see a black prime minister, lawyer, doctor, politician and I want to help the next generation realising this. I mean I’m getting old and will turn 30 in november. I want to be someone who can coach people to become their greates version. If you want to grow you first need to be serious about the proces. A lot of young people don’t believe in this world. A lot of Africans in Europe can speak, find funding, find a team, grow and have people in key position that can speak for us and defend our point of view.”
Do you think that change in the black community is going to start top down or down up?
“I can’t really tell because the we have to be one as a community. Africans en Caribeans are devided. So actually if we want to grow together we need to create a community with black intelligent people. We need people who are passionat. A few people who are motivated can bring a lot of change.”
Do you have style tips?
“Colour cordinations is very important to me. Where what you like but make sure it is the perfect fit. Not to big, not to small. If it’s raining I will be wearing grey or dark because light colours will look dirty or messy when it gets wet. When its sunny I will definitly where colours. And I will always match three colours never more than that.”
How did becoming a father changed you?
“It was my biggest dream. To have children and give them everything I didn’t have. I love being a father.”
What does it mean to live and work in Rotterdam for you?
“I wasn’t feeling myself in France. My father used to live here a long time ago. He always loved it here but back then racsisme was a lot more visible. Holland is open minded especially compared to France. The most important thing to me is that people can express themselves more than in Paris. There they are having a difficult time to stand out and still fit in. People in Rotterdam can have red hair, say and do wathever they want. When I was in Germany for example I went to the bank, there was this guy full of tattoo’s who worked there; I was in shock. You would never see that in Paris.
I waited six years before I moved. I had to be sure and did my research. A lot of people here want to go abroad and they think big. But starting small and investing in projects here in Holland is not really happing. I wonder why. I also never experienced a country where people can say they hate their own language. I have never heard people of Italian, German or France ever talk bad about their language.
I love that Rotterdam is always having a blockparty, museum events, and other projects. They plan a lot of events and I understand that without it the city would be compeltly different.”
Do you have any tips for young people struggling with life?
“Your life is in your control. The best power you can have is freedom of choice. If you have that, you can do and be anything and anyone you set your mind to.”
Do you have any tattoos?
“No, I like tatoos but I don’t have one.”
Do you have permanent accesorys?
“Yes, I always where a hat and I wear a lot of rings. They have a special meaning to me. From my father and grandparents.”
In then years….
“Wow, nice question but not easy. I would say that in ten years african people will be proud to be african, to live Africa, to breathe Africa, to eat African food. Now we aren’t proud of ourselves anymore. I hope we can see that in ten years from now. I also would love to have my own atelier in Rotterdam and sell my artwork from there.”