“El arte nace del mar de la inconformidad.” – Elio Osejo [Art is born from the sea of nonconformity.]
Elio Osejo is recognized as a famous name from “Juliana,” one of the most well-known Peruvian films of all time, but you wouldn’t know it from the humble and quiet lifestyle he now lives off the beaten path in the middle of the Central Andes. In his role in “Juliana,” the other street kids dubbed him with the nickname “loco” (crazy). It wasn’t because he played a crazy kid, but because he was different from the gang; he was an observer, read the newspaper and spoke wise words for someone so young: “Más y más inflación. Los precios se inflan y los platos se desinflan.” [More and more inflation. The prices inflate and the dishes of food deflate.] True to his character, the Peruvian public called the real life Elio, “loco,” because he never took on another role in his native country despite promises of fame and fortune. He explains that he wants to be constructive and not destructive in his art, but all the lucrative roles they pitched him were of negativity, murder and defeatist stereotypes.
To this day, he remains a nonconformist. As would be expected by society, people try to put him into labeled boxes:
- For his poetic background
- For his tendency to initiate and provoke conversation and discussion
- For his ponytailed long hair
- For his eccentricity
Some thoughts on the subject from Elio:
|Adáptate o Muere||Adapt or Die|
|“Adáptate o muere” me decía mi padre||“Adapt or die” my father told me|
|quien se adaptò un dia a su nueva familia||who adapted one day to his new family|
|y desde entonces no supimos màs de èl||and we never heard more of him from then on|
|“Adáptate o muere” me decía mi madre||“Adapt or die” my mother told me|
|que arrastraba su estigma de leona solitaria||who dragged around her stigma of a solitary lioness|
|y conversaba con sus plantas para no sentir que yo||and conversed with her plants to not feel that I|
|tambien me iba alejando poco a poco de la casa||too was slowly drifting away from home|
|“Adáptate o muere” me decía el sargento sin saber||“Adapt or die” the sergeant told me, not knowing|
|que más tarde descubriría la paz de las mujeres y que||that soon I would discover the peace of women and that|
|mi eterna batalla sería siempre en contra del aburrimiento||my eternal battle would always be against boredom|
|“Adáptate o muere” me decían mis profes||“Adapt or die” my professors told me|
|“Adáptate o muere” me decían mis jefes||“Adapt or die” my bosses told me|
|Miro hacia atrás y escribo satisfecho:||I look back and write satisfied:|
|“La vida nunca dejará de ser maravillosa||“Life will never stop being marvelous|
|hasta para un desadaptado como yo”||even for someone who hasn’t adapted like me”|
Elio doesn’t fit cleanly into any of the boxes people make for him, if at all, but he does dabble in all communities because he believes that art is about sharing and depends on a deep understanding of life by living it thoroughly. With an attitude of openness, connecting with others provides more than information and inspiration; it provides new artistic possibilities. As Elio reminds me through the wisdom of Zen, we need to continually empty our metaphorical cup and refill it with freshness.
These days, you will find Elio immersed in his latest two passions: poetry and capoeira. Capoeira embodies his philosophy of art and life — it’s not about a fight, but a jogo (game) as the Brazilians say. He teaches his young capoeira students to smile because the goal of capoeira is not about winning. Likewise, writing is not about stardom or money and life is not about achieving happiness. Instead, you live your art as a form of “elevated expression” and live happiness through shared moments, the little things.
What boxes do people try to stuff you into?
A big thanks to Elio Osejo for his time and for the interview.