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Behind the scenes of Anatomy of Diaspora, Janice Mascarenhas
Behind the scenes of Anatomy of DiasporaCourtesy of Janice Mascarenhas

Watch a thought-provoking film from Dazed100 winner Janice Mascarenhas

Anatomy of Diaspora brings together dozens of artists across the globe to tell an Afrofuturist story rooted in Yoruba mythology

You might remember Janice Mascarenhas as the winner of the 2021 Dazed100. The Brazilian hairstylist, who grew up around the salon where their mother worked, topped the public vote for their adventurous and exploratory creations using the medium of Black hair – sculptural dreadlocks, typographic braids, and hairstyles incorporating natural treasures such as shells and clay.

“That was so special,” they tell Dazed, on winning the competition. “My family and friends trust me a lot, but seeing ‘their person’ going ahead and conquering the world makes them feel like they also can. That was most valuable to me.”

A year later, Mascarenhas is ready to unveil how they put the resulting $30,000 grant to use – a project that took them across eight countries, meeting new artists and learning about “amazing cultures” as they went. Titled Anatomy of Diaspora, the short film takes us on a kaleidoscopic journey through indigenous cultures and Afrofuturist ideas, via a narrative about a clay robot, named Lodo, based on Yoruba mythology.

In part, the film is a departure from Mascarenhas’ background in boundary-breaking beauty. However, there’s a clear line between the research they were doing as a hair stylist and the work they’ve created over the last year. “When I was nominated for the Dazed100 I was starting to mix clay on hair and to bring this narrative to my research,” they say, noting that the story of braids and locs is inextricably tied up with “survival techniques and the quest for freedom during the colonial period”, as a way to express resistance and unify the “cosmic knowledge” of Black people.

Anatomy of Diaspora also builds upon the histories that the stylist-turned-filmmaker heard during three years working at beauty salons, serving mostly Black customers.In a moment between fashion sets and beauty salons, I realised I could be a director and tell my own narrative... decentralise the narrative,” they add. This also involved bringing together a community of dozens of artists to work on the project, from the digital artist (and 2022 Dazed100er) Gabriel Massan, who contributed two artworks, to the Moroccan music producer LeithBut, who provided a “techno-funk-glitch” score. 

Mascarenhas also highlights Clara Moneke, whose performance stands at the centre of Anatomy of Diaspora. “I feel happy I had the chance to work with her before the crazy agenda that fame brings,” they say, predicting a bright future for the Brazilian actress.

“I think the biggest highlight is my dream team of 38 artists between Brazil, USA, Morocco, Botswana, London, Porto, and France,” Mascarenhas concludes, looking back on the best bits of making the project a reality. “It’s not simple at all being Black and proposing to create stuff focusing on Black people, so I wanna use this space to say thank you [for] the power created between Black people dreaming together.”

Watch Anatomy of Diaspora in full below.