Santiago Bose's "Native Song"

Learn how Bose uses symbols from popular culture to examine the complex colonial history of the Philippines

Native Song (1999) by Santiago Bose (Filipino, 1949 - 2002)Asian Art Museum

Santiago Bose:

If I am honest, I am rebelling against my own indifference. I am rebelling against the idea that the world is the way it should be and there is nothing we can do about it . . . But we have got to follow through on our ideals or we betray something at the heart of who we are.

Two katipuneros, members of a clandestine Philippine revolutionary society that was founded in the late 1800s to overthrow the Spanish colonial government, dominate the center of this artwork.

Framing the photograph are the covers of scores for popular music, probably dating from the 1930s or ’40s.

And superimposed on the central photograph, Santiago Bose has painted a crucifix, a sun symbol,

and a hand with a knife.

Initials and mysterious letters and words are written across the painted images. These may be references to anting-anting (folk amulets), which Bose often included in his artworks.

Bose’s work often illustrated his keen awareness of the power of photography and its use in subjugating the colonized. The photo Bose uses here was likely taken by a Spanish soldier; a few years later the Americans documented the Philippine-American War with hundreds of images. 

Bose noted that rebel forces wore these amulets to protect them from the superior weaponry of the Spanish. They could also be seen as a challenge to institutional Catholicism through the promulgation of folk religion and precolonial belief systems.

A common preoccupation of Bose’s multimedia works is the history of the Philippines, especially the complex relationships between colonial and indigenous cultures.

By enlarging the snapshot and presenting it on a monumental scale, Bose emphasizes the heroism of the simply clad rebel soldiers. 

Natasha Reichle, Associate Curator of  Southeast Asian Art at the Asian Art Museum, discusses Santiago Bose's Native Song. (6:19 min.)

Native Song (1999) by Santiago Bose (Filipino, 1949 - 2002)Asian Art Museum

Bose is himself considered a rebel who turned his back on commercialism in the art market and always advocated for the marginalized.

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