Process | Black Angel: On the Work of Rhea Dillon
To celebrate Juneteenth, earlier this year — a US holiday recognising the final emancipation of black slaves in Texas — No Sesso has collaborated with photographer and filmmaker Rhea Dillon to release Black Angel — a meditation on themes of restraint, freedom and identity. Premiering last week in L.A., the highlights the lack of innocence that black people are allowed in an increasingly right wing America.
Rhea looked to recent tragedies as a catalyst, questioning the very nature of liberty in the United States. “Too many times black people are unlawfully killed without even being able to put their hands up in innocence,” she says. “Instead, they are instantly perceived as a threat to society from birth, especially for young black boys –- so tell me, is there any innocence for us? Are we all just angels on the land awaiting heaven’s open door?”
In a series of vignettes shot on a mini DV camera, the visuals play out like singles on an album, a conceptual collection of shorts that unite for the same message. Each scene has the gorgeous intimacy of a home movie and the quiet political power of a silent protest. Rhea cast friends and family of the brand, as well as street cast contributors from surrounding neighbourhoods to provide voices unique voices in the film.
Rhea said, “through No Sesso’s garments there is no conforming identity. There’s no denotation of male or female. You’re allowed to just be who you want to be regardless of society’s rules. This film will address and display the freedom of the black being, being allowed to just be.“
On the heels of that collaboration, Rhea has joined forces with Nowness just earlier this month for a new film titled Process, which premiered in October for the ‘Defining Beauty’ series, Rhea explored the often overlooked and misunderstood particularities of afro upkeep. “Process was all about never seeing black hair being washed and exposing those stages of a process that needs to be ‘diarised-blocked out-half day set aside’ for,” she outlines. “I am a planner as a black woman. As a person with afro hair, you can’t afford to not have it together.” An intimate depiction, the short explores the “crown” that the hair on your head represents as a black female: “this crown I hold on my head is heavy laden with politics and societal pressures,” Rhea adds. Through a combination of image and sound, the film “opens up the sensory experience of the hair ritual of a black person from start to finish. To provocatively push the audience to experience and therefore understand the weight of five seemingly ittle words, ‘Sorry, I’m washing my hair…’”
Ultimately, however, Rhea’s choice of concepts and media reflects her want to transport others to new worlds in order to help the advancement of societal structures. “Surrendering to storytelling is so important for existence as I remember reading this quote: ‘art is everything we hope life would be’,” Rhea recalls, concluding that, “I think art is everything life can be, which is why I often use my art to explore black existence and politics as it’s my means of bringing about change.”