DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 9 May)—Mention Kidapawan and people will picture a quiet city nesting in North Cotabato, known for its agriculture, its early inhabitants of the Manobo/Monuvu tribes, and its being located at the foot the majestic Mount Apo.
These images find itself into artworks that depict tranquil and festive moods. But two young artists from Kidapawan, growing up with realities affecting their hometown, are challenging these imagery with their artworks.
21-year old Zhejie Matias Manibog and 19-year old Neil Robin Gayramara are showcasing 12 artworks at the Kidapawan Contemporary exhibit at La Herencia Gallery from May 7 to 14.
Curator and Kidapawan writer/historian Karlo Antonio David says the paintings on exhibit offer “a fresh take on Kidapawan City,” different from “the polite and repetitive” as Manibog and Gayramara’s art provides “fresh perspectives” that “disturb and provoke.”
The paintings of these young men are a deconstruction of images, mixing indigenous figures and nature elements with contemporary symbols of modernity, technology and vanishing forests.
Manibog, who says he has Monuvu lineage from his mother, presents the indigenous people or Lumad facing current issues that affect their heritage and identity.
One such work is his reinterpretation of the Monuvu Plaza Statue in his city of a Monuvu carrying a basket. Instead of fruits Manibog fills his basket with rolled up land titles.
The painting’s title Datu Ba? (Rich?) is a wordplay of the word datu, a title conferred to the leader of the indigenous tribe and also the Bisaya description for a wealthy person. But here, Manibog questions.
Curator David explains, “on this already complex conversation on representation the artist adds an even more complicated problem of indigenous land ownership, and how coloniality has led to the marginalization of the indigenous people.”
In his painting Minom Ateh, a Lumad turns into a barista. David explains that while the context is about modernity that affects the indigenous youth, this “serves as a quiet nod to the Monuvu tradition of growing and brewing coffee, and expresses hope for this tradition to be taken forward.”
Gayramara’s art, which he encapsulates into a series called Labad (Headache-Inducing), presents people with morphed heads such as a tricycle driver with a bayawak head, or a woman’s face covered with a discarded mangosteen peeling. The idea here is that “youth have heads as empty as (these peelings), plucked from the tree of their town and detached from their roots.”
In another work, Wa Na Say Agas! (Nothing’s Flowing Again!), the young artist teases the city’s woes of lack of tap water with the image of a naked couple representing “drought of ideas, sexuality drying up” juxtaposed with the irony that Kidapawan has highland springs.
The titles of Gayramara’s artworks are as provocative as the works, written in Bisaya and taken from conversations he hears from the city.
David says the exhibit from these young artists “aims to show that Kidapawan is not simply an exotic subject matter with nothing to offer but fruits, it is a community whose complex realities are lived and reflected upon.” These works aim to show a thriving art scene in Kidapawan that hopes their works spark discussion of contemporary issues affecting the indigenous peoples and the settlers.
It is impressive that these works come from young artists who are coming into form.
Gayramara is a product of the Kidapawan National High School Special Program for the Arts and recently awarded the Grand Prize of the In Situ Painting at the Mindanao Association of State Tertiary Schools, Inc.’s Cultural Festival in 2021.
Manibog sustains his studies with his artworks for the past couple of years, and has been known for his mural works in the School of Indigenous Knowledge Building in Magpet and at the Patadon Mural at the Kidapawan City Cultural Heritage Museum’s satellite exhibit in Patadon.
Their artworks are on exhibit at La Herencia ground floor up to May 14.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Tyrone A. Velez is a freelance journalist and writer. He likes to get lost in this summer heat in exhibits, cinema and books.)