Artist: Kayla Briët • Words by Maria Manuela • Photography by Anissa Amalia
“As human beings the essential question we’re all in this story to find is what is home? What does home mean to us? We’re always seeking the stories of where we come from, looking to traditions of the past, and also forming new ones for the future.” Kayla Briët is a storyteller, filmmaker, composer and virtual reality artist based in Los Angeles. Her Prairie Band Potawatomi/Neshnabe, Chinese, and Dutch-Indonesian heritage is a prime mover in her work, which meditates around themes of home and identity.
She grew up in a multi-generational home in the suburbs of Southern California, immersed in the variety of cultures present in her family. “My grandmother would have these mahjong Karaoke nights, she would invite all of her friends and have parties. She’s from Hong Kong and raised Taiwan, so I was around so many languages from Mandarin to Dutch. For me, it was like a playground.”
In 2016, Kayla created the stunningly beautiful film Smoke That Travels, which introduces viewers to her native Prairie Band Potawatomi heritage, and includes footage of her learning a traditional hoop dance. “Dance was the first time I learned how to tell a story in a medium that didn’t require words...being taught these dances was a way of learning how to tell a story, how to bring it to life and how to bring people into your world.” The film has won over 45 awards at film festivals like Sundance, and is now part of the archives at the Smithsonian.
Kayla collaborated with Los Angeles-based photographer, and like-minded friend, Anissa Amalia on this style shoot, and spoke some words of wisdom about her work, style and life.
ON HER WORK
“ I am a storyteller, and I tell stories through multiple mediums. Right now, I am fascinated with the fields of music, film and virtual reality. Through my artwork I tend to explore themes of home, and what home means to me and themes of identity as well. Music is where I first discovered my own voice and became comfortable with experimenting with creating worlds that were bigger than my own. By combining different styles of music—I combine folk music and traditional styles with more electronic sounds—through music I find a place of home; I create this little world that feels at home. I am now looking to honoring my roots but also looking forward into the future, and allowing the space for my roots to exist in these futuristic mediums like virtual reality and experimental forms of music.”
ON SHOOTING WITH ANISSA
“I love to collaborate with friends, and with people I feel an emotional connection with. I always feel most comfortable behind the camera, but after having hear-to-heart conversations about what we care about and how we express ourselves through visuals, Anissa and I have so much in common. When I’m with her I feel very grounded and it’s almost a more intimate process…it doesn’t real feel like a photoshoot, it feels like we’re sharing a moment together.”
ON HER STYLE
“I really like clothes that I can move around, and climb things in. I like climbing things in the city and in nature, just roaming and being comfortable. I love jumpsuits—something I can just jump into in the morning and not thing about. Fabric that flows and clean lines…I love pockets. I always like to find different ways to keep my hair out of my face, up in multiple braids and buns and ponytails.”
ON HER FILM FESTIVALS, AND WHAT THEY’VE BROUGHT HER
“The most valuable thing was getting to be exposed to mentor figures. I was able to meet other young artists. Sometimes, the most valuable mentors you can have are your peers, your own friends. It was all a learning experience, and the more I was exposed to the worlds of filmmaking and composing, the more I felt I had to learn. Ask for what you need, that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned. I’m very, very grateful.”