Welcome to the mysterious and minimalistic room of Cesar
This article is the second out of a small series about the student rooms in Flogsta, in which Maria Brix Rasmussen and photographer Miriam Hauertmann explore the inside of the apartment buildings’ seemingly identical corridors
On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in February, the photographer Miriam and I enter the minimalistic, yet very personal room of Columbian student Cesar Rengifo Pelaez on the fifth floor of building four. Cesar welcomes us with a smile and shows us the way into his room with a relaxed hand gesture.
The very first things to catch my eye are definitely Cesar’s unique curtains. When Cesar first moved in, there were already some curtains hanging there left by the previous tenant.
– They were blue. I was thinking all the time, when I looked from the outside, that I didn’t like them. I was thinking I need something that looks different and that feels like my own. Stuff that no one else has, he says.
He replaced the blue curtains with a pair that displays the face of the main character, Jack Skellington, from the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas. Since Cesar especially likes the director of the movie, Tim Burton, he even has a poster with another movie from the same director.
Cesar himself in front of his characteristic curtains. (Photo: Miriam Hauertmann)
For a moment Cesar thinks I’m Swedish, and with a laugh and teasing sound in his voice, he excuses himself before he says that he didn’t just want something that was bought in IKEA. I laugh back and say that since I’m from Denmark I don’t share a specific national pride towards IKEA. When Miriam and I are sitting comfortably on Cesar’s double-sized bed, Cesar asks us if we would like a cup of tea to the biscuits I brought for the interview.
The poster above Cesar's bed. Since Cesar likes to read about the universe and space, he likes how this poster gives energy to the room. (Photo: Miriam Hauertmann)
Cesar has a cosy little corner in his room, where he has a few cups and some boiled water ready. While Cesar is making the tea, Miriam and I are looking around everywhere. Though the room is quite minimalistic, without too much furniture, there is a warm and welcoming atmosphere which makes us both feel calm and relaxed in this little space.
"I feel the decoration of the space has a direct relationship with the feeling of solitude."
Cesar serves the tea in a wide mug, and we begin to talk a little about his life both before and in Uppsala. 37-year-old Cesar moved to Uppsala in the summer of 2019 and is now in the final year of his master in sustainable development. While we talk a little about his life, Cesar tells us that he used to work as a project manager for a helping organisation for 10 years before he got a scholarship and came to Uppsala. Even though Cesar has lived in the same room since August 2019, he just recently began to decorate it.
– When my neighbours, who I created a very good relationship with, moved, I started to decorate more. I feel the decoration of the space has a direct relationship with the feeling of solitude.
The shelf above Cesar's desk is surrounded by a chain of fairy lights. (Photo: Miriam Hauertmann)
Cesar found comfort in his newly decorated room since this made him less lonely at a time where the corona pandemic was raging its first wave. Along with the need for visually decorating his room, it is obvious that Cesar also needed to stimulate other senses. He has several scented candles on his shelves, a speaker, and headphones. All things which Cesar describes as important for his own well-being.
– I like when it’s dark, and I have a lot of candles. I actually only ever light three of them. The rest I have just because they smell good. They’re from IKEA.
Because we all notice the contradiction in Cesar’s statement, we all laugh as he mentions IKEA again. While Miriam starts taking photos of the room, I sit on the bed thinking about how Cesar has succeeded in stimulating both the visual, the sense of smell, sound, light and darkness in the same place. Although Cesar doesn’t explicitly state that his room reflects upon his own personality, I think that the need for people surrounding him was transferred into the need to decorate his room with things that could stimulate the different senses that he would otherwise get from other people.
– I had a really good relationship with the people in this corridor. We were hanging out in the kitchen all the time, talking, watching movies. And then when they moved, I felt like: ok, I need something in my room
When I ask Cesar himself about what he thinks characterizes his room, he says:
– I think my room is characterized by a mix of darkness and light. And I can say it kind of represents my different mental stages here in Uppsala.
Cesar shows us the little analogue music box that only plays 'My Way' by Frank Sinatra. (Photo: Miriam Hauertmann)
This also resonates with what Cesar believes a home should be like. For Cesar, it is more about the people he lives next to.
When the conversation returns to the question about music, Cesar points at his nightstand which has been solely dedicated to a little music box lying on top of a small tablecloth. Cesar explains to me that a friend in Columbia gave him this before he left, and when I ask him what he feels most connected to emotionally in the room, he says that the music box means the most to him. With a smile, he turns the little analogue handle, and for a little while, the room turns quiet as we listen to the little metallic melody. At first, it sounds like a classical melody, but Cesar then reveals to us that it is ‘My Way’.
I think the title of the song describes and reflects upon Cesar’s mental stages while living here in Flogsta: When things changed, and his friends moved, he conquered loneliness his way by changing his surroundings and meeting his needs in a different and unique way.
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