Maia Cruz Palileo is a multi-disciplinary artist working across themes of migration, history, and memory. This painting belongs to a series the artist made after researching what the Philippines looked like while her grandparents grew up there. The series blends fragments of drawings from pre-World War I photographs of the Philippines, taking them “out of this fixed, colonial context and creat[ing] a new vision of my ancestors, my family, and my culture,” Palileo has stated. In The Way Back, a horse walks from light into darkness, a reference to the artist’s process of uncovering histories; even though the horse is blind, it knows its way. Palileo also incorporates the idea of sankofa—a symbol used by the Akan people of Ghana, often depicted as a bird with its head turned backward. Sankofa also describes the Akan quest for knowledge through critical examination and patient investigation. In recasting historical events and figures, Palileo creates the possibility for new narratives told from a more inclusive, twenty-first century perspective.


  • Title: The Way Back
  • Creator: Maia Cruz Palileo
  • Creator Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois
  • Date Created: 2018
  • Location: Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
  • Physical Dimensions: 59 1/2 × 47 1/2 inches (151.13 × 120.65 cm)
  • Type: Painting
  • Publisher: Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
  • Rights: © Maia Cruz Palileo
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Art Form: Painting
  • Credit Line: Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. Gift of Jennifer McCracken New and Jason G. New. Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

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