Silence in Art with SoSonia

Sonia Mandeville, better known as “SoSonia” on YouTube, is an 18 year-old creator based in Jakarta, Indonesia. She is best known for creating unique films through the SoulPancake YouTube channel, where she has amassed over 300,000 views on her work there alone. Her style often incorporates many different art elements, such as written word, cinematography, crafting, and stop-motion into a cohesive and captivating message.

Sonia kindly agreed to a Skype interview. As soon as the call was picked up, the video and audio revealed a headphoned Sonia in a little café somewhere in Wisconsin, as she’s been travelling the United States for a few months. Interview by Danielle Leard.

Lithium Magazine: Do you think there was a designated time you started doing art or has it been something you’ve been doing your whole life?
Sonia Mandeville: I think it just kind of evolved from little, simple things [I created] as a kid to something I feel more passionate about, and then turned into things I . . . kind of reflected on. So it started off as something very simple, ingrained in my everyday life, and then it turned into my life, and then into every aspect of what I do and how I live. I couldn’t be happier with that.

LM: Now, you live in Jakarta, Indonesia. How would you say your location positively and negatively impacts your ability to create and be apprehended, versus if you lived in a more mainstream area?
SM: I think [the impact] depends on your attitude. You can always be down about where you live and [feel as though] there aren’t enough cool places to go. But in the end, it’s up to you to create your own perspective. I think traveling really helped me, because I wasn’t stuck in this one place. I got in a plane or a car and just went out to have adventures. That helped my perspective on the different things I do art about. It can be very frustrating if you’re stuck in a city, but it’s all about having the strength to say, ‘No! I can make the best of my situation.’ You can change things, decorate your bedroom, go crazy! The internet helps a lot, too. As long as you have your means of creativity and your outlet, [your location] doesn’t matter too much. Also, the more stuck you are, the more desperate you can be, which is a good thing. You can reach out to the most obscure people, whom you never thought were creative. I came to a point, at the end of my time in Jakarta before I started travelling again, where I was just desperate to find people. I found the most obscure creatives that were just waiting for someone to find them. It’s out of that desperation and out of that loneliness, you really find the people you might connect with. Then, you have that outlet to be creative together.

LM: How has your position as a young creator impacted how others view you - peers and elders?
SM: [My position] made age less and less of an issue with whom I connect with. I’ve always been someone that connected with an older generation. Most of my friends right now are in [their] mid-20s to mid-30s, and I’m 18. Because of how I communicate, our age didn’t really matter. Though I have felt the burden of being young and wanting to connect with everyone, having that creative perspective gives people interest in what you’re doing. To me, age doesn’t matter much... I did have phases in my life where I was really scared to tell people about my age. I didn’t want them to think I was too young to be doing what I was doing. Yet, at the same time, it’s up to them whether they look at you as an artist, as a human, or both. It’s really up to you if you speak through your art or through your personality.

LM: What is art to you? How would you define it?
SM: I think art is anything you make it. Art is a way of life, as well, if you let it be. I know there’s . . . people that see art as a chore . . . but, art is any form you think of it. [Not just the classical styles.] It can be how you look at life, it can be perspective. I think art is how you take your life out of the ordinary. Those little moments, that are out of ‘go to work, go to sleep, go to school’ are art . . . That’s how I would define it. Art is how you live your life out of the mundane.

LM: As mentioned in some of your videos - such as The Happiest Girl in the World -  you struggle with multiple mental disorders, is that correct? How do you balance your creative energy with the limits from your mental illnesses, and not let it keep you silent?
SM: Yes. I think my creative choices bring me out of my disorders. [I felt] it was up to me to fight it, so, I chose my happiest route. When I committed my life to creativity, suddenly all this depression and anxiety started disappearing. My film Happiest Girl in the World took so long to make, because I was depressed when I was making it. I could only make it when I had the energy to. Because of that, the film was so honest to me. As long as something good came out of my struggles, it was all worth it . . . If you have a mental disorder, you can take that perspective, and turn it into art; a new way to look at life. It’s about perspective and how you choose to deal with it.

LM: Do you think there’s a degree of fear in creators to pursue their dreams and ideas? Why do you think it silences them?
SM: Of course. I think [it silences people for different reasons] depending on their personalities, but it’s also how society sees creators and artists. It can be looked at as not a profession to go in so easily. But, it’s about the creativity and what you can create. It’s not about how many degrees you have or how many classes you took - it’s about what you can do physically. I stopped going to high school, because it wasn’t my thing. I still have a job, and I work in the creative industry. People are fearful that creativity can’t get them far in terms of a “professional career”, but I think you just have to take that leap of faith. You show the world that you can be passionate and successful. There are a lot of people in my life that are scared to be creative, but it doesn’t have to be a challenge. You ingrain it in your everyday life and that’s how you live. It turns into a happy place.

LM: What advice do you have for young creators?

SM: Use who you’re trying to become as a creator to find who you are as a human. I think that’s a big one. We forget that we should make art to also improve ourselves. Put as much meaning as you can into the simplest art form, because that’s what is going to really make your art stand out to people- how honest you are, how honorable you are, and how real you are. Don’t hide, but at the same time, keep things to yourself if they’re valuable to you. With my films, I look at the creative process as something for me. I use it to reflect on myself, the subject I’m doing, and the people I’m working with. The end product is for everyone else. While you’re proud of it, and that’s amazing, you should also be proud of how you created it. You’re going to have those trials, you’re going to have the times you fall apart, and it all goes to heck. But as long as you knew that there was a moment of self-discovery for you. I’m currently working on a film about body image called Better Reflections. It’s about self-confidence and inner beauty. The entire thing is to also help myself. [It discusses] how I feel about my body and how I feel about my beauty and how I was raised. So I wrote the script to inform others about it, but at the same time, I talked to [the people I worked with] about how they feel about their bodies and how they feel about inner beauty and nobody’s going to see that conversation. That’s fine, because that was between me and the creators. Yesterday, I sat down and I wrote an entire journal entry about it because I still needed reflection. I needed to know if I was learning anything from this film I was making. You need to make sure you reflect and that you’re really practicing what you preach. Having your own process is so valuable when you start doing it over and over and over again. Lastly, the biggest one is to just be happy, because there are way too many things that are too serious in this world. If you want to be a creative person, make it a really good choice for you.

Find out more on Sonia:

Top visual courtesy of Sonia’s Instagram; bottom visual courtesy of author.
Please note parts of this interview were excluded with the intentions of creating the best piece as possible. Thank you.

1 comment

  1. she's so accomplished and mature for her age HOW