In comic book format, Bahian publication addresses the beauties and contradictions of Salvador

Published by Solisluna, 'Roma Negra' marks the literary debut of Esteban Vivaldi, an Italian-Chilean illustrator based in the capital of Bahia.

Two teenagers from the countryside want to see the sea and begin a daring journey through the backlands. A painter in decadence tries to save himself through art. A sailor lands in the capital of Bahia, where he faces a dark past. Finally, Alexandrina, a typical girl from the outskirts, who manages as best she can, and who brings together all these stories, representing the City of Bahia, with its mysteries and new beginnings. The characters are part of the graphic novel Roma Negra , by Esteban Vivaldi, published by Solisluna.

Black Rome - Comics by Esteban Vivaldi

The plot is told by several voices and is articulated in three intertwined stories that are found in Salvador. To construct the narratives, the Italian-Chilean illustrator and writer based in the capital of Bahia - in the Rio Vermelho neighborhood, more precisely - used what he calls 'natural research', through his observations and his own experiences. “When I arrived here, in 2014, I wanted to know the Historic Center, the Lower City, the alleys, the neighborhoods and the Suburbs. It was a completely new world that kept revealing itself. All of this began to take shape and fuel conjectures that became this book.”

For Esteban, Salvador revealed itself as a cultural power, a social contradiction, a complex anthropological mixture and a geographical paradise: “This noble and miserable manner, this sophistication and simplicity, this air of province and, at the same time, imperial city, this being many things at the same time. I think it’s enough to fall in love.”

Produced over the course of a year, Roma Negra marks the illustrator's debut in the fantastic world of comic books. However, his interest in the genre is long-standing:

“I always liked comics. When I was a child, I couldn't stop drawing. The drawing follows me like a faithful dog. I can even say that drawing has saved my life several times, pulling me from the bottom of my existential well.”

Black Rome by Esteban Vivaldi

References and discovery of Carybé

The references are the American cartoonist Winsor McCay, the Italian illustrator and director Lorenzo Mattotti, the French painter and writer Roland Topor and the Chilean visual artist Germán Arestizábal. In Bahia, Esteban discovered the work of Carybé (1911-1997), with whom he was enchanted. The Argentine artist, naturalized Brazilian, also based in Salvador, even received a tribute on the pages of the comic.

“Carybé was one of those revelations that Bahia gave me. When I discovered his art and his life, I felt a push in my back, as if saying: 'Come on, go and tell me what you see!' Carybé was also an artist from far away, he wasn't from Bahia, but he knew how to represent this land like no one else. Therefore, I wanted to pay homage to him, taking inspiration from one of his most beautiful paintings, almost as a good omen”, he says.

The title of the book is a reference to Salvador (also known as Black Rome, due to the strong presence of African-based religions) and draws a parallel with the Italian capital, where Esteban spent a good part of his life. “It’s a poetic and spiritual type of relationship. Both are important religious capitals: Rome is the capital of Catholicism, Salvador is the capital of Candomblé. Sometimes, some corners here even look like the Eternal City. I think this is fantastic!”

Solisluna celebrates 30 years

The launch of Roma Negra is part of the celebrations of Solisluna Editora's 30th anniversary (celebrated in 2023), which also debuts in the comics genre with its first graphic novel. Graphic novels - translated into Portuguese as soap opera/graphic novel - are comics with more elaborate and complex plots, a greater number of pages, mostly aimed at an adult audience.

“For us, it is an immense joy to enter this universe with such a beautiful work, full of nuances. We dedicated ourselves for months to the text and images, to deliver the most modern to readers of the genre, who are quite demanding”, highlights Valéria Pergentino, founding partner of Solisluna. The publisher was recommended by Solange Bernabó, daughter of Carybé, to Esteban Vivaldi. “He went to show Solange the project and she promptly recommended it to us, which is an honor and says a lot about our long trajectory”, says Valéria.

About the author

Esteban Vivaldi was born in Chile in 1975. He spent his childhood in Chilean Patagonia, on the island of Chiloé, where he began drawing thanks to the influence of a painter friend of his family. In 1983, together with his father, mother and sister, he moved to Rome, Italy. In the 1990s, he became one of the pioneers of Roman graffiti, forming the NSB group, very active in that decade. While studying architecture in Venice, he became interested in cinema and even produced short films. Back in Rome, in 2000, he worked as a documentary editor. In 2014, he moved to Salvador. Here Esteban once again dedicates himself to drawing and telling stories in images, holding some solo exhibitions and illustrating books for children. Roma Negra is his first graphic novel .

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