Philippines: Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (Itcz)

Contemporary Artists from Philippines

Philippines: Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (Itcz) (2014) by Contemporary Artists from PhilippinesImago Mundi








FRAGMENTATIONS 


More than 7,000 islands make up the archipelago of the Philippines. Nestled between the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the Celebes Sea, it was named in honour of the Spanish king Philip II. In fact, only two thousand of these islands are inhabited, with many of them covering an area of less than one square kilometer. The two largest islands alone, Luzon and Mindanao, occupy almost 70% of the territory of the Republic. 

We are totally alone here, Allan Balisi, 2014, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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We are totally alone here (2014) by Allan Balisi

This geographical fragmentation of the Philippine archipelago reflects another fragmentation that characterizes the artistic-cultural scene of the country. The mosaic of influences and traditions that have merged over time is the result of a number of heterogeneous components: evangelization under the long Spanish domination, Islam, a minority but diffused throughout the territory, Western customs introduced in the decades of US domination, the linguistic, cultural and social substrate of Indonesian and Chinese origin.

Sagrado Corazon, Carl Irving Labitigan, 2014, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Sagrado Corazon (2014)
by Carl Irving Labitigan

Hundreds of languages were once spoken in the Philippines. Today Tagalog, from the Austronesian language family, written using Latin characters (formerly scripted in a special writing system of Indian origin), is the most widely spoken, on a par with English, while the use of Spanish has almost disappeared.

Red Light Attack, Christopher L. Gomez, 2014, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Red Light Attack (2014) by Christopher L. Gomez

Even the architecture shows signs of cultural overlap: the churches, mosques, colonial homes, modern skyscrapers and fast food outlets make a collage that finds continuity only in fragmentation. The list of UNESCO World Heritage sites demonstrates the diversity of cultural expression in the country: it ranges from baroque churches to the rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, to the historic town of Vigan on the island of Luzon, founded by the Spanish in the sixteenth century and a thriving market town, whose historic center contains many well preserved colonial buildings.

Untitled (Gold), Costantino Zicarelli, 2014, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Untitled (Gold) (2014) by Costantino Zicarelli

In Manila, the capital of the Philippines (again on the island of Luzon), one can find traces of the times of economic boom, when the city was a hub for oriental products on their way to Europe – spices and fabrics, in particular – using the famous ‘Manila galleon’ (the ‘Galeón de Manila’ or ‘Nao de la China’): the trading route between the Philippines and Acapulco in Mexico. The goods continued overland to Veracruz, and then to Seville or Cadiz in Spain.

Map to the Edge of the World, Ioannis Emmanuel Sicuya, 2014, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Map to the Edge of the World (2014) by Ioannis Emmanuel Sicuya

The advancement of the city intensified in the second half of the eighteenth century with the establishment of direct contact with the Spanish kingdom via the Cape of Good Hope, and when enlightened governors like José Basco introduced modern methods in agriculture and encouraged – with the decisive contribution of the Royal Philippine Company, created by Charles III in 1785 – the export of tobacco, cotton, rice, sugar, pepper and cinnamon.

Untitled, Lena Cobangbang, 2014, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Untitled (2014)
by Lena Cobangbang

Today, the agglomeration of Manila boasts one
of the highest population densities in the world. Six million worshippers (in the Philippines there are 80 million Catholics) attended the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in 2014 – the largest attendance in history according to the Vatican – to remember the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the country the year before, causing thousands of victims.

Flood Control, Kris Abrigo, 2014, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Flood Control (2014)
by Kris Abrigo

Although often the cause of discord and strife, the different ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural roots have been, and continue to be, the real wealth of the Philippines, where today about a third of the population is under fourteen years old and more than half its inhabitants are under twenty-five.

Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker, Luis Antonio Santos, 2014, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker (2014) by Luis Antonio Santos

Since 1998, a national law protects the tangible and intangible heritage of the ethno-linguistic groups of the archipelago. The photographer and documentary filmmaker Hannah Reyes, beneficiary of a National Geographic Young Explorer fund, has studied the transition to modernity of indigenous cultures in the northern Philippines. Better connections and education, in fact, are putting a strain on these cultures, while young people are increasingly absorbed by modernity. Reyes recounts this transformation through her images, documenting the traditions that still endure and the emergence of new forms of culture created by the fusion of old and new.

Untitled, Mervin Fabro Pimentel, 2014, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Untitled (2014) by Mervin Fabro Pimentel

In 2013, the exhibition ‘Philippines, Archipel des Échanges’ at the Musée du quai Branly in Paris, brought together a selection of about 300 major works of art from the Philippines, revealing to the world how the populations of the islands have always been skilled in the art of creating everyday items (basketwork, mother of pearl and ceramic artefacts, fabrics, armour for warriors, talismans, tableware, jewellery and personal ornaments) and how they practiced bartering, exchanging salt and various objects for Venetian murrine or Chinese ceramics. They were also excellent in the art of sculpture, as demonstrated by the Bulul: the deities of rice produced in narra wood that served to protect the crop.

Gabriela, Michael B. Laguisma, 2014, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Gabriela (2014)
by Michael B. Laguisma

In the Imago Mundi collection dedicated to the Philippines – more than 200 works on 10x12 cm canvasses – the overlays, the integrations and the cultural influences appear as an artistic journey through history, from the pantheon of pre-Christian gods to Catholicism, to abstract, expressionist, conceptual and pop art.

Moya Malconensis, Mona Lisa Santos, 2014, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Moya Malconensis (2014)
by Mona Lisa Santos

José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda – poet, revolutionary, sculptor, painter and linguist, hero of the Philippine revolution – wrote verses in the nineteenth century urging young people to be creative: “Descend with the pleasing light of the arts and sciences to
the plain, oh youth, and break forthright the links of the heavy chain that your poetic genius enchain.”

Time, Renz Baluyot, 2014, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Time (2014)
by Renz Baluyot

Today, Filipino artists do just that, starting with
recognition of their language, their art, their historical identity. Between the deep and the shallow, they advance, some by accumulation, others by subtraction. From an imagined future they share with us their courage to look at the life of today through art. A possible way to reinvent themselves and the world.

Luciano Benetton

Si Katunao at Ang Lihim ng Sanduguan (Sikatuna and the Mystery of the Blood Compact), Simkin De Pio, 2014, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Si Katunao at Ang Lihim ng Sanduguan (2014)
by Simkin De Pio

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