How art connects us to our ancestors and ourselves

By Crimson Tazvinzwa

Growing up in a family with Chinese, Dutch-Indonesian and Native American ancestry, Kayla Briet says the first medium that really allowed her to express her identity was music.

Briet offers her brief but spectacular take on storytelling through art, language and identity.

Kayla Briet: “Why do I make art? To build capsules for my heritage.”

Kayla Briët creates art that explores identity and self-discovery — and she does this simply because she fears that her culture may someday be forgotten.

She gets so animated when  telling how she found her creative voice and reclaimed the stories of her Dutch-Indonesian, Chinese and Native American heritage by infusing them into film and music time capsules.

Of her family life she says; “I grew up under the same roof as my parents …aunts, uncles and grandparents. Altogether! Under one roof.

“My mother is Chinese and my dad is Indonesian. My father is tribal member of play-band called Mara ban tribe.

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A Native American Filmmaker Kayla Briet Captures Her Father’s Language Before It Vanishes

“Typically my family life routine is like; one weekend I’ll be learning how to roll Chinese dumplings. And the next weekend I will be performing a traditional style dance. I never thought I was Chinese enough, native enough. Dutch or Indonesian enough. The medium that gave me that voice and that identity was the music,” Briet admits. At age of four years Briet says her father started teaching her a traditional Native American hoop dance practiced hundreds  of years ago .

READ RELATED: A Native American Filmmaker Captures Her Father’s Language Before It Vanishes

READ RELATED: Why do I make art? To build time capsules for my heritage

“A lot of indigenous languages around the world are dying  due to historically forced assimilation. Being native is not about wearing long hair, braids, it’s not about the feathers and beeds;” she laments.

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Solitude, Darkness, Light
A film by Kayla Briet  2016 Winner in Cinematic Arts)

“It is all about how we centre ourselves in the world as human beings.” Briet concludes.

Briet says it is ‘dangerous when our stories are rewritten or ignored because of when we are denied identity we become invisible.’


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