ANNA ON THE BUS
Amsterdam-Paris Flixbus, around noon, somewhere between Antwerp and Brussels. Sun is starting to rise, air-co is on, half a dozen of tourists are snoring here and there.
SAMA crew wakes up slowly, stretching on fake-leathered seats, stomachs full of chewy toasties from a random Belgium gas-station. Moste is half-asleep, I take off my headset and hurdle around Anna, forming a tight circle. Even if no campfire is lit and no marshmallows are grilling on skewers, we are ready for some storytelling. Moste, a bit tired by all the recent travelling, picks-up the dialogue: "Hey Anna, why is it so important for SAMA to go to Paris?"
She faces them like a mirror reflecting souls: "Well, it was kind of written on the destiny’s stone. It's magic. It's a dream come true. Did you know that one way or the other, SAMA started in a Quartier Latin’s basement, in HelloHikimori.com one, a digital design company with whom I used to work when in advertising? They were the first in the world to tell me to follow my dream and go solo, believe in SAMA. David even did a first quick design to help me visualise that it can be real."
"So, you already liked the Frenchies then?”, I comment, not really used to this type of feeling towards my folk.
“Liked? J'adore! May I remind you, sweetie, that we have strong bonds with them for ages? The four Mont Blanc Savoie students we already welcomed and the future ones to come? Our friendships with HelloHikimori, Sandrine Boulet, Oak Oak, Théa, who has been making SAMA movies for years now? My admiration for Urban Contemporary committee, with whom we share artists, from 13artfair.fr? Ability to be on a stand next to Agnes B?You? Booking for SAMA tour on behalf of daughter of Picasso? 35% of SAMA visitors are French! So you see, being loyal in France could end up as being offered a stand from a project I highly respect, on the first art fair in the History of Paris.
And you know that for SAMA it is about putting Nieuw-West on the map, spreading our Artivism on an international level and of course having a memorable SAMA’s 5th anniversary. And the best place to celebrate SAMA is in the city where in 1921 the first 100 people marched through the streets in rain in the name for art, DADA. From Paris squats to Joe's Garage in Amsterdam, gentrification of Nieuw-West has parallel to District 13. The Bohemians of the 1930s got a direct influence on me quitting corporate world to switch to the La Bohème of the future - the street and social art. It's all connected, as far as I am concerned, so it's universe cooking the soup this time, not me.”
Sinking in his seat and adjusting his colourful cap, Moste insists: “Yeah Anna, but why is SAMA the best to represent Amsterdam?”
“Si, totaal, good question. Which other project in Amsterdam actively mixes street art and local neighbours on a continuous basis? Who else has 150 artworks collection designed to besiege a 4 km green and gravels path of 'where people don't go'? Do you know any other local initiative able to guest worldwide famous entities such as TEDx, Paloma Picasso, The Drum, Mobile Marketing? To attract Paris Urban Contemporary, New York Times, Taiwan Business Weekly’s, Graffiti Art Magazine attention? And as you said so yourself, SAMA deserves to be seen. I agree, the time has come for a debut and Amsterdamers love Paris, so let's share the love, no?”
“How did it all start, by the way?”, I continue to ask Anna.
“With a couple of women, magically bewitched women for sure, how else could total neophyte feminine figures grow a pure grass-root initiative without innovative superpowers? One was a local mother of 3 babies at the time (now 5), Dianne Riley from Aruba, and another was a power-vrouw, Hester van Buren, then a director of Stadgenoot housing corporation (now Rochdale). Later joined Stascha Nelis, from gemeente Amsterdam, stadsdeel Nieuw-West. We found the right ground to seed Heritage, cultivated Activism, and took care of Culture using Street Art tools. We harvested dialogues plurality with 4en5meicommite and dialogue day. Starting from scratch, the first paint splash on a wooden fence became a sturdy project, I call it "prophecy of Bastardilla", our first artist. Like a magician, she predicted through her artwork "Anxiety and Pain relief" (2012). That’s how "wounds and cocoons" metamorphosed into a human foundation, a cosy museum, centered on creating and protecting.”
Everything else on the bus is silence, but SAMA’s founder. Mesmerized by the flow of her speech, I curl up against the window, while Moste grabs his bottle of water and ask: “Anna, we were wondering, who is really Anna and what drives this unstoppable engine?”
“Well, I am a maker for sure, producing, crafting, leading, but also a dreamer, collecting and striving. I cannot say if fairies bended on my cradle, but I was born with inextinguishable manic energy, communist ideals and activist talent rushing in my blood; those kind of gifts which can turn into curses if you are not strong enough to handle them. As long as I remember, and to quote the greatest philosopher of our times Pipi Longstocking "I am a finder, I have not a minute to spare", just like her I was dragging home all sorts of finds from the streets: broken toys, trashed posters, mushrooms, intoxicating flowers, peculiar leaves. SAMA works the same, I just kept on going until some 20 artists’ collaboration emerge out and formed this marvellous collection. SAMA flew out of a beliefs cocoon, knit with careful strategic planning, strengthen by a healthy dose of serendipity, perfected with intuition’s sprinkles. When things get boring I snap to change it, and again, to quote another greatest philosopher of our times, Willem de Kooning: "I have to change to stay the same”. And that's what, my love, makes SAMA constantly fresh and dynamic, like Madonna."
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