Bujwah learned art, music, clothes, and skateboards from the streets.
Bujwah’s story sounds more like what you’d expect from an anarchist punk band than a clothing line.
Old friends from the desert agricultural town of El Centro, the Bujwah crew staved off boredom by going on renegade wheatpaste missions, causing trouble, and shredding every gap, ledge, rail, staircase, and gutter in town.
“All of this evolved out of skateboarding,” says Matt Zavala, a pastor's son who runs Bujwah along with his brothers Daniel (“he’s the boss”), Jacob (“we call him the 'hat maker' - he does all the embroidery work), and designer Carlos Gonzales.
“We were just a bunch of friends chillin’ on El Dorado block and we started this company called Frontier Skateboards. It was me, Sebastian Ulloa (Batwings), Joe Pipkin, and Ernie Quintero (The Spits, Slab City). We were selling skateboards out of the trunk, making some money for the crew because we were all broke. My brother Daniel and his friend Tony came up with this concept called Bujwah in 1999. Then me and Joe moved to San Diego. Joe was selling shit out of 7-11 and I was selling out of my trunk and my house.”
Fast forward almost fifteen years, and the Bujwah team has designed shirts and fliers for festivals such as Desert Daze and Fuck That Fest, which, Matt explains, is “a fuck you to Fuck Yeah Fest, not against [promoter] Altamont, but because it was cheaper.”
They’ve also curated a handful of art and music shows including the Strange Tour, which took Beaters and Pool Honeys from LA to San Diego to TJ to Mexicali and ended with special guests Blackfeet Braves in El Centro bar Strangers, owned by Bujwah/Frontier coconspirator Ernie Quintero.
While Bujwah’s wheatpaste clothing designs have been available for some time at Strangers and Cheap Tricks skate shop, also in El Centro, the crew is now gearing up for the grand opening of their new headquarters in Golden Hill (23rd and Broadway).
“We’ve kept it underground until now,” says Matt. “This has been a dream for us and we are taking it slowly. It’s time for us to do it right.
To celebrate the opening, Matt and company are teaming up with Fullerton-based Burger Records to throw a party on Sunday, March 24 at Tower Bar (4757 University Ave. – City Heights) featuring Bruin, Gap Dream, The New Rivers, Pool Honeys, Little Girl Blue, Cosmonauts, Traumahelikopter, and DJ Lee Noise.
The store will carry Bujwah threads, music from Burger Records, band merch, skate gear, and works by borderland artists including Daniel Zavala, Star27, D. Gibson, and Adam Moyes.
They also plan on hosting monthly shows.
“We are trying to make a scene in Golden Hill,” says Matt, who, along with his brothers, designed and built the shop's interior from the ground up.
“Lots of business owners were telling us to move down to Kensington because that’s where all the foot traffic is at. But I’ve been going against the grain all my life. Hopefully people follow and start making something in Golden Hill.”
A dedicated movie buff, Matt has a tattoo on his forearm of Stanley Kubrick with a mohawk taken from one of Bujwah’s trademark wheatpastes.
Matt, an aspiring filmmaker himself, is currently working on a short called Surfs Up Cholo about a dude from Compton who moves in with his estranged pro-surfer dad in La Jolla.
”It’s just fun skits. Strange flicks. Just feeling like you don’t fit in until you meet another stranger. Everyone’s trying to go to school and make babies, and we’re over here trying to have fun. The way people live nowadays, babies are having babies because that’s what they think they have to do, but you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. I’d rather be poor than have to be acting like everybody else.”
So, really, anarchist punk isn’t far off the mark.
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- Jill Holslin: Tijuana Alley Art photo series in Normal Heights — Feb. 18, 2013
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