The Ethereal Wadale

There are few Benicia residents as recognizable as Wadale. If you’re unfamiliar with his name, you’re almost certainly familiar with his appearance. He’s usually dressed in a collage of accoutrements, with beads and jewelry dangling from his hair and clothes, pins adorning his hat, glitter cast across his eye mask, glowing crystals dangling from his neck and topping his walking stick. He is often seen dancing, singing, and playing guitar on the pier and various other places in town.

On the day I met him, officially, he was greeted by many in One House Bakery warmly and familiarly.

A canon of “Hey, Wadale!” echoed down the line of patrons and employees alike. One woman passing by stopped and simply said to him, “You just make me so happy,” before continuing on her way.

Wadale, whose last name is Green — “Green as in the color purple,” as he puts it — grew up in the Bay Area, spending time between Rohnert Park and South San Francisco. He lived for several years in Bolinas, where he met the person who would draw him to Benicia. He has since developed a deep connection to Benicia and, though he prefers to live unbound to a traditional home, he considers Benicia to be his hometown.

His trajectory as an artist began early, growing up in a musical family, with a cousin, Larry Graham Jr., who played with Sly and the Family Stone. Wadale was inspired by seeing the group play live at their studio in Los Angeles and developed a love for the expression of music and dance. However, being raised strictly Jehovah’s Witness, he was discouraged from following his own musical path.

Ultimately rejecting the religion in which he was raised, he began his spiritual journey with his move to Bolinas.

He began studying Eckhart Tolle and Neale Donald Walsch, gave up his possessions, abandoned traditional society, and eventually realized a profound spiritual connection that he hadn’t felt in organized religion. He credits this spiritual awakening with the unleashing of his creativity.

In 2013, Wadale realized he needed to evolve beyond his “old self.” This is when he decided to start dressing as an amalgamation of the archetypes he identifies with and aspires to be; Zorro and Samson are just two of the roughly ten icons he dresses as on a given day. In doing so, he feels he is connecting with them and embodying their archetype. He turns to their stories and behaviors when things get tough. “How might they have responded in this situation?” he thinks to himself.

Wadale sees himself as an avatar — embodying the characters and heroes he is drawn to, but also representing an alternative narrative of the stereotypical “homeless” person. He spoke about a phenomenon he experiences regularly. Children seem drawn to him. Though unsure when they first see him, they become curious and begin talking to him. “Then they learn, not only am I normal, but I will do everything I can to make them feel like they can be their own heroes too.”

Wadale expressed caring deeply about the children of Benicia and also about the elderly.

As a lover of stories, he finds value in the lived experiences of those who have come before us. He aspires to find a thread of commonality with everyone, even those he may disagree with. “As long as mankind has been in existence, it seems we go to fear before we go to love as an option. My message is, let’s play with love a little more. Let’s see what that has to offer us.”

Wadale leaning against an outdoor banister with his guitar
Viktoria Varga

About photographer Viktória Varga:

“Photography is my way of storytelling. I started this adventure as a hobby, which developed into a full-fledged passion. I feel so lucky to do what I am so passionate about: capturing precious moments with timeless portraits.

Instagram: @VIKTOVAR