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27 Dec

Watch the trailer for Jade O’Belle’s mesmerising film Birthright

Watch the trailer for Jade

“Once you’re from a colonised background, you might be taught to discard your body and values Watch the trailer for Jade. Your adopted histories should not your individual,” explains Jade O’Belle. “My paternal side of the family is Yoruba-Nigerian.

My grandparents got here over within the late Fifties so my father was born in South London. My connection to my Yoruba culture is from a dysphoric western viewpoint as I haven’t been to Nigeria yet.

All the things I’ve learnt has been from watching my family navigate through England as Nigerians… But despite the fact that my understanding of my family’s cultural history is dispersed, it could be reclaimed in a latest way of ownership.” The British interdisciplinary artist’s latest work is a strong and mesmerising act of reconnection and reclamation.

O’Belle’s short film Birthright (Girls In Film Productions) is a hypnotic and enthralling incantation, summoning the mythologies, rituals, and wealthy symbolism of Yoruba culture. Invited into this otherworldly realm by High Priestess, we’re lured deeper by the haunting rating and the enchanting imagery of rolling waves,

glittering mirrors and flickering candlelight. An announcement concerning the film tells us, “Birthright encapsulates the Black fem-identity through Yoruba iconography, a conceptual film that strives to reclaim conversations on selfhood, our bodies, and power.”

“Once you’re from a colonised background, you might be taught to discard your body and values. Your adopted histories should not your individual” – Jade O’Belle

The artist elaborates: “Birthright is an immersive story that visually explores the history of family and Yoruba iconography from a dysphoric perspective. Birthright is a movie about intuitiveness; it’s about following the intuition of self. The story is about someone calling on a memory that’s innately carried through the body. The short film explores possibilities and fantasies through unworldly dreamscapes created by costume, sound, and imagery.”

While O’Belle has worked with photographers corresponding to Nick Knight and Harley Weir, and has been a muse to designers and artists corresponding to Di Petsa, Sinead O’Dwyer, and Michaela Stark, the origins of the film lay in a period of self-estrangement. In a conversation over email, she reflects:

“I used to be trying to search out a method to connect with my body. Perhaps I used to be disconnected because my physical traits should not the usual of Western beauty and there may be an impression of how I’m seen on this planet. Although I don’t imagine these values about myself to be true, it does affect how you progress through the world on a day-to-day basis. These social biases and misconceptions have been put onto us but don’t belong to us.”

Reconnecting along with her Yoruba heritage was an integral a part of this story. “In this era, I began to perform rituals that felt intuitive, I took note of my actions after which all of the symbolism began coming to me. Through talking to members of the family,

I began to attach the dots and realise that these practices were very much linked to my Yoruba heritage, specifically, they were rituals to Yemoja [the mother of all Orishas (deities), and the patron spirit of rivers, sea, and children]. I began to query how informative these ritual practices were and, following my gut instincts inside my body, they led me to an understanding of my heritage.”

Reflecting on the film’s potent title, O’Belle concludes: “Birthright is the suitable, privilege, and possession which you might be entitled to at birth. The title Birthright, within the context of this film, is about reclaiming that entitlement of the histories which were dispersed through colonialism. It’s about reclaiming innate values which were inherited through our bodies.”

To mark the film’s launch, East London’s Guts Gallery might be transformed into an extension of the Birthright world. On September 30, the gallery will turn out to be what the artist describes as a “ritualistic metaphysical space”. Alongside a screening of the film, expect a soundscape performance by which Sasoraye responds to the film, a display of the costumes and a reading from artist Ebun Sodipo [who plays the Reflection], and Becky Namgauds choreography of a Twin Flame performance.

Take a have a look at the gallery for stills from Birthright while the trailer (above) allows a mesmerising glimpse of the film itself.

Birthright by Jade O’Belle (produced by GiF) might be premiered at Guts Gallery on September 30 2022. Apply in your tickets here.

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