Pushing and Pulling the Boundaries of Art History

Pushing and Pulling the Boundaries of Art History…from within: a review on Elkin’s Is Art History Global?

As the last book review requirement for the AS 240 Readings in Art History class, I wish to take this opportunity to frame the review as a reflection on the intellectual journey that this class has brought me to re-think my initial ‘strategy’ on ‘doing art studies’ — which stems on the (art historical) theories that have been influencing, forming, and affecting my personal standpoint or perspective — and, re-evaluate and reaffirm my role as a student in the Art Studies Department. I remember vividly the first day of class when Dr. Datuin asked each student, “Why are you here? Why Art Studies?”; of which my answer was a Ms. Universe-y though sincerely: “to make sense of the world”. Dr. Datuin said in her lecture on Doing Art Studies by “deconstruction…is a postcolonial undoing and challenge to existing norms”; and by challenging the western canon while trusting art historical methodologies is the direction which art studies has to face. Reading “Is Art History Global?” is also a challenge of self-reflexivity for art students as we find ourselves situated in the debate for the discipline’s place in academic institutions and its necessity in the broader context of social need which also impacts government and academic institutions’ policy and mission in education to ‘join the wave’ in the globalization of structures.

I think the main contention in the debate is the issue on “point of reference”, which Elkins identifies E.H. Gombrich’s Story of Art as one amongst the texts that acts as anchor and stumbling block that holds and challenges the direction of the globalization of art history. “Whole chains of dependence, misunderstanding, abbreviation and expansion and adaptation come from receptions of the story Gombrich tells so clearly — the very Eurocentric story that has proven so difficult to import into local contexts”, Elkins explains. (p. 124) Elkins and some participants in the seminar consider the popularization (and lack) of texts having huge influence in the forming (and non-forming?) of the narratives and thereby the pedagogies that art history in respective countries follow. The texts are responsible and fundamental in the formation of art studies starting from Vasari’s The Lives of Artists to include art methods that necessitates looking into the world in which the artwork exists and operates, just as how Baxandall has illustrated in his Paintings in 15th Century Italy. The entry of literary theories into art studies, and the texts and theories introduced by social historians, anthropologists, archeologists, sociologists, have expanded the scope of study on art from its materiality to include the sociality, thus bridging the gap of form and context towards a “contextual art history”. The definition of “art” was debated from since Winckelmann’s idealized form to art as a human product involved in the means of production and consumption. The experience of art was raised by Susan Sontag and Timothy Morton through the examination of abstraction and senses, to include other media, materials, and spaces including the environment beyond the visual and tactile senses exhibited by traditional western art forms of painting and sculpture. In the course of studying art, inquiries delved not just the ‘knowing’ but also of understanding wherein scholars search to find gaps from previous literatures and studies and discovering/realizing the excluded voices of the marginalized: the women, the ethnic people, the non-western, the queer, etc.

Elkin posing the question “Is Art History Global?” is valid and even necessary, however, not new. I think the question is an extension or putting back on the table the issues raised by post-colonial art historians especially Olu Oguibe. Maybe “Is Art History Global?” is a response to Oguibe’s suggestion to exchange a single center to a multiplicity of centers? Is Elkins proposing a universal art history but without the pains and divide caused by colonialism, by the canon? If so, are we to read art history’s western grand narratives with a sense of detachment, and regard it like an artifact of an already dead era, of outdated values? Or are we to totally disregard the western canon, but then, what is the alternative? Shelly Errington also raised the question, “suppose one did not want a way of imagining the narratives of art history as worldwide but neither Eurocentric, essentializing nor reductionist?” (p. 434 )

Recalling Oguibe’s 1993 essay “In the Heart of Darkness”, Oguibe said, “What needs to be done is to reject that peculiarization and all those structures and ideational constructs that underlie it….Otherization is unavoidable. And for every One, the Other is the Heart of Darkness. The West is as much the Heart of Darkness to the Rest as the latter is to the West. Invention and contemplation of the Other is a continuous process evident In all cultures and societies. But in contemplating the Other, it is necessary to exhibit modesty and admit relative handicap since the peripheral location of the contemplatory precludes a complete understanding. This ineluctability is the Darkness”. (Oguibe in Fernie p. 322)

Shelly Errington, opts to pin the issue on the narratives and institutions; categories and characteristics, instead on delving of what constitutes as “art”. The ‘new’ in New Art History is not just expanding other cultures and traditions to the ‘canon’ and grand narratives to ‘radicalize’, make ‘progressive’, or make it seem disrupting the western hegemony in the art history discipline and practice. Such a means, Errington says, is an “additive strategy — what anthropologists call the “fill-a-gap” or “another country heard from” method — is not the answer.” (p.431) Instead, Errington “believe(s) the intellectual center of the discipline may be at its margins — professionals deeply versed in and knowledge-able about the conventional, who push and pull it from within to new insights, perhaps using unusual subject matter.”

Is Art History Global? My answer to the question is “no”. Currently, as in now,  the art studies as we know it is not global. But my question is more on: should Art History be global? Keith Moxley said that Art History, just like the concept of art, is an inherited discipline and “part and parcel of the heritage of colonial and neocolonial experience… and to map the world according to universal principles (is a way) to continue their ambitious attempt to render the world transparent to a single point of view.” (p.208)  Because as long as patriarchy still rules in institutions, in political and social structures;  and as long as there are still unequal conditions in so far as the incapability of non-western institutions and scholars to assert their presence amongst the established, well-funded and published western scholars, globalizing art history will only cement western hegemony. There are ongoing struggles of the marginalized for publication opportunities, and even grants to fund research to include politicized discourses. It is still difficult for me to imagine an alternative. However, at the same time, I would like to see the debate for a global art history as an honest proactive move of art historians to overhaul and re-invent the existing norms. And maybe art historians at the margins will find this the opportune time to finally shout out loud and clear their proposals for an alternative art history.

Which brings me to the issue on intention or purpose: Why study art, why study art history? We go back to Kantian and Hegelian philosophies, and once more examine human in relation to nature. Pushing the boundaries is not just geographical boundary anyway but also the boundary humans placed upon themselves as human equating to “self”. And this, I believe, makes art history global…or maybe not. But that is the joy in art studies — the constant pushing and pulling of boundaries that is the very characteristic of the art discipline, the way artists and intellectuals alike explore at all the possibilities of depiction, of rendering, of creating; a course of study that is continuously and persistently critical, questioning, re-examining, and exploring new possibilities of thoughts and theory-making; of understanding; of seeing and sensing. For me, “doing art studies” is progressive, open-ended and even boundless.

Harris wrote in New Art Histories on bell hooks, on her declaring the “special quality of art activity”, of “art’s ability to transcend race and gender.” Quoting hooks: “Art, and most especially painting, was for me a realm where every imposed boundary could be transgressed. It was the free world of color where all was possible”…”a space of knowing utopian dreaming — where ‘color’ can be “free’”.  (Harris, p. 280) So maybe as   students of art studies we should start working and intervening towards the creation of that utopian space of “doing art and art studies” by pivoting, transgressing the center (Pollock), that patriarchal structure as a whole; it is only then can a global art history be possible.

On Art and the Experience of Art

Art and the Experience of Art: a review on Baxandall’s Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-century Italy

Art as History

There are two points from Baxandall’s book that I find very valuable in the study of art, history and society: a painting as a material which functions as an historical/archival evidence, and the vocabulary (and language) used in its description by the artist, patron or viewer’s experience of the painting as also indicative of the sensibility, point of view, underlying concept/s and social relationships existing at that time it was made. I find Baxandall enlightening as he details on one of the foundations upon where and when our perception and cognition on art was buit.

In the opening sentence of his introduction: “A fifteenth-century painting is the deposit of a social relationship”. Baxandall refers the paintings as ‘cached’ data wherein layers of information or knowledge can be uncovered and retrieved — “the pictures becomes documents as valid as any charter or parish roll” (p.152). Baxandall’s use of both visual and textual sources, and the important role of context, condition or circumstance as method of analysis and interpretation aim to expose the cultural, political, social-economic life and relationship/interaction among people as well as the environmental condition of that given period and place in history. Thus by contextualizing a painting and incorporating its desciptions written in 15th-century Italy, Baxandall points to the uncovering not only of the signification and techniques of a painting but also the sociality, the political and social relationships in its production and consumption/experience thereby giving us a picture on what it was like being a Quatrocentto person. With this knowledge it enables us to comprehend and appreciate the works and kind of life of an entirely different era; an era though far from our accustomed and contemporary appreciation or taste in art (at least mine), yet we can also relate to in terms of social relationships, such as the business of creating, consuming, and experiencing art.

The painting, however, cannot be fully understood unless translated into a set of vocabulary and deduce therefrom any information behind the painting. Since ”Art” is a learned discipline which embodies a set of theories and methods, it definitely also has a set of vocubulary to describe art and creative works. Its impact lies wtih the knowledge that art having structural and ideological influence in the understading and experience of art, how art is being taught in school, written by those with authority (the institutions, the elite, the learned and the “lettered”), can create generations of people to uphold certain beliefs that, in time, becomes the convention.

Western social historians of art such as Hauser explain that societal transformation led to conditions that also develop (western) aesthetic experience. The Quattrocento vocabulary, however, has its sort of lasting effect since it is still used in today’s reading and writing of art. Words such as “pure, easy, gracious, ornate, varied, prompt, blithe, devout; relief, perspective, colouring, composition, design, foreshortening; imitator of Nature, lover of the difficulties” (p. 151) are very much ingrained in our way of looking at pictures and the role of artists, and in fact search for these elements to interpret, experience and categorise any kind of creative work (or label a work as art). We respond to art in a way we were taught how to respond. This learned vocabulary has defined our perception and cognition/recognition of art, which has became basis of our experiencing art. As Baxandall said: “understanding the picture depends on acknowledging a representational convention”. (p.33)

From an understanding of visual perception to giving attention to visual experience, having a visual sense and a habit of analysing visuals, pictures, or any sensorial perceptions involve also a practice of nomenclature — applying terms to what is felt, seen, heard, etc.  Training in a range of representational conventions, drawing from the environment, relating to what we see vis to abstract and conceptualised representation, intends to signify “an aspect of reality within accepted rules.” (p. 32) Also certain ideology, profession, literacy, experience, leads the viewer to be more discriminating or discerning on a particular area, element, or property of the work such as the technical, sensory, formal and expression properties. Some may see first a disproposionate limb, p particular hue of aquamarine, the patriarchial content, or maybe the zen-like effect of experience.

Therefore, the “period eye” is a “learned” eye, trained and/or subconsciously transplanted insofar as specificity is concerned. The significance of Baxandall’s book to the contemporary is the manner on which he was able to dig into the experience of art in 15th-century Italy (specifically commissioned religious paintings), but this is in no way meant that we absorb in toto the very same vocabulary and apply the experience of a Quantrocentto (elite and lettered) person, the past with a different context, as our own.

Baxandall in the New Art Histories?

Where to place Baxandall? Jonathan Harris finds it, at first, difficult to place Baxandall in the recent developments of the art history discipline because Baxandall “has never included a consistent discussion, or definition, of ideology of the kind that has always been key to work within Marxist and feminist art history.” (Harris, p. 43) However, Harris eventually settled that Baxandall hovers between the ‘old’ and ‘new’, ‘radical’ and ‘traditional’ art history because for Harris, Baxandall “is certainly highy sceptical … of notions of the primacy of ‘the visual’ within the work of art historians”. By quoting from Baxandall’s 1985 essay: “We do not explain pictures: we explain remarks about pictures — or rather, we explain pictures only in so far as we have considered them under some verbal description or specification” (Baxandall: 1985; in Preziosi p.45) — on which Harris comments: “a rather understated implication is that art historians, in making the latter reality for the former ambition, deceive both themselves and the readers”. Harris also found T.J. Clark having a similar point that “art history should be seen as really about arguments and principles of explanations — ways of understanding — rather than blandly about ‘approaches’ and ‘methods’ of looking as though these could be detached from questions of position and value”.

In this manner, Baxandall though maybe not explicitly ideological, he may be considered as “new” art history through his questioning of position and value by ways of exposing the negotiations between artist and patron, the resources and materials used and exchanged, and by considering a specific “historical view of consciousness” (Sontag) of a local culture and social class through evaluation of the local verbal description or specification written at the time the picutre was made — the same issues that T.J. Clark raised in his essay “The Conditions of Artistc Creation”.

It is also in this manner that Baxandall complements the study of non-western art by seeking local vocabularies of local traditions and cultures on a given society’s cognitive style or as Baxandall’s coined the term “period eyes”. In “Is Art Global?” , Elkin explains that “cognitive styles are admissible on the level of particular local cultures, within specific temporal horizons, and even within certain strata of society, but are largely incompatible with plotting the space of art history into large geogaphically, linguistically, and nationally defined entities. They imply the existence of local traditions, or period eyes, connected to very specific places and periods within the large abstract categories such as “Western”, “European”, “Chinese”, or “Latin American” Art. (Elkins, pp. 96-97)

Anthropologist Clifford Geertz made reference on Baxandall to deal with inquiries regarding local cultures’ experience on art. Geertz started in his essay “Art as a Cultural System”, that “art is notoriously hard to talk about. It seems, even when made of words in the literary arts, all the more so when made of pigment, sound, stone or whatever in the non-literary ones, to exist in a world of its own, beyond the reach of discourse. It not only is hard to talk about it; it seems unnecessary to do so.“ We are schooled to talk about art by reaching for metaphors or analogies to describe, analyse, and judge art. We place art in categories, in period styles, in some form of taxonomic structure or system. We approach art by dissecting its content, shape, form, composition, tones and color. The study of art has become reduced to technicalities and formalism. But how does art serve in the “general dynamic of human experience”?, Geertz asks. The cultural significance of an artwork is always a ”local matter…no matter how universal the intrinsic qualities that actualise the emotional power that may be”, he explains. To explain an artwork is to seek a sensibility rooted in its sociality. A local culture that does not share the same western vocabulary of art or speaks about art using the same formalist and stylistic properties are most times seen as lacking a concept on art and aesthetics. However, Geertz said that local communities always talk about art, but not in the same way as how we do, “not just in their immediate shapes but in the way of being-in-the-world they both promote and exemplify, extends as well into their drummings, carvings, chants, and dances “ This “being-in-the-world” means the “everyday lives, myths, trade, or whatever”, and may I add, being in nature.

In trying to further understand art, we have also forgotten how art is to be experienced through the senses aside from the visual because we are obsessed with seeking interpretations or explanations. Susan Sontag, in “Against Interpretation”, imagined that “the earliest experience of art must have been that it was incantatory, magical; art was an instrument of ritual.” However, this does not mean that we unlearn and definitely cannot be innocent as we were once was before all these learned theories. Instead, she said that “we have an obligation to overthrow any means of defending and justifying art which becomes particularly obtuse or onerous or insensitive to contemporary needs and practice”. In so doing, she suggests to veer beyond the idea of content, or seeking an explanation of a picture, which she sees as “a hindrance, a nuisance, a subtle or not so subtle philistinism”. (Sontag, p.2).  Overemphasising the idea of content, she said, brings us to this neverending debate on interpretation. Interpretations were done so as to understand. But then when interpretation is being applied, it consequently “summoned” to reconcile the past with modern understandings or cultural lens. Alternatively, Sontag suggests that “interpretation must itself be evaluated, within a historical view of human consciousness.” How to do this in the contemporary is to have a vocabulary of “really accurate, sharp and loving description” of forms…(and not) to assimilate Art into Thought, or (worse yet) Art into Culture”. (Sontag, p. 8-9) Sontag finds the need to change our perception and approach to art and instead go back on how art should be experienced sensorially especially now in our contemporary society where we are being bombarded with a multitude of stimuli that dulls our senses. “What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more”, she concluded.

Therefore, returning to Baxandall, from the material (a painting in 15th-century Italy, for example) and its description, studying the arts in the new paradigm is not merely finding what an artwork means (since interpretations cannot be completely avoidable), but rather to let the material and its sociality/experience show the way to understanding. As Sontag puts it: “to show how it is what it is, even that it is what it is”. (Sontag,p.10) Eventually, questions will arise relating to how the present context shapes our interpretation of the past, and how the past shape the present. 

Uplift-ing? : Sculptures of Women in the UP campus

When Ferdinand Cacnio’s three dimensional work entitled Uplift was unvieled to the public, there was initially congratulatory remarks and appreciation because his work can be considered as a female version of the Oblation. A bronze figure of an unclothed woman lies on her back in mid-air, her arms softly outstreched while the ends of her long tresses touched the water in a pool, giving an illusion of bouyancy as if floating and drifting in the air. However, the fervor fizzled when a post in social media revealed that Cacnio’s work is not entirely original and unique for there is another somehow similar to it — The Virgins of Apeldoorn, a public installation in the Netherlands by Dutch artist Elisabet Stienstra. This information was shared and eventually, comments poured criticizing the work as a case of plagiarism. To some legalese it is an infringement of copyright. The work is not the only one criticized as there are also comments deploring the University for lowering its standards on excellence (Manila Times Online Editorial dated July 14, 2017 ). Cacnio, however, strongly stood his ground stating that he never copied Ms. Stienstra,  never traveled to the Netherlands, and never encountered her and her work. While the social media comments may have tried to deflate the artist’s ego and his work as made in bad taste, this may also reveal the public’s level of understanding, perception and judgement on art, and on how the public’s demand for originality and uniquenes correlates to the concept of value and worth — that the original and the unique deserve more value and appreciation. In the age of “post-truth” (especially when we are being fed by media with unvetted news), somehow the reactions can be understandable because as the knowledge gap narrows due to globalization and information technology, research and information are not as difficult to do and acquire as before. Thus, his oversight on the need to research other artists’ work and for similar ideas and execution of work is not acceptable.

However, there lies the question on the creative process. In understanding this, maybe we can be more forgiving of Cacnio’s oversight on research. How far can the creative process go if not due to factors such as the artist’s gender, sexuality, beliefs, education, location, even ethnicity? To quote Pooke and Newall in The Basics of Art History: “The things we see and remember are among the most durable of human experiences.” In the book’s second chapter, it discusses on composition and medium in art.  Ferdinand Cacnio is an engineer by profession, owns a graphic design company, and also does sculpture. According to him, he problematizes the concept of “floating”.  How best can he compose a three dimensional figure floating in the air when dealing with heavy material/medium? His previous works were posted on Facebook to show that this has been his recurring theme  and a problem he endevoured even before Ms. Stienstra’s Virgins.  This was also Abueva’s idea way back in 1951 (National Artist of the Philippines, Anvil:1998, 5). Abueva refrerred his earlier sculptures “as “bouyant sculpture” — sculpture meant to be appreciated from the surface of a  placid pool.” Abueva has thought of this “as a simple gesture of sympathy for his stillborn youngest sister. […] The shape of this crib-base intrigued him and with the idea of the river-borne Baby Moses in his mind, his concept of the bouyant sculpture was born.”  The artist is “formed only in the course of grappling with the task that has been set to him and which he undertakes to solve.” (Hauser, Philosphy of Art History, p. 201) Therefore, if we disregard the “female/woman” subject matter, Uplift is the answer to the problem Cacnio wishes to solve.

Meanwhile, the female form in the works of Cacnio and Abueva shows a rather naturalistic and somewhat idealistic (slim and 20thC idea of beauty) rendering. Created in 1996, Abueva’s Nine Muses in front of the U.P. Faculty Center shows nine females in various poses as muses of painting, dance, music, film/photography, literature, etc.  Such idealistic rendering of the female may be the male artists’ notion of female beauty by focusing on women’s femininity as reflected by visual features of flowing long hair; young, svelte, lithe and fluid bodies; slim and well-propotioned torso and limbs. This rendition may be translated as how the male idealises and maybe even fantasizes about women. And then, there is also the “masculanization” of women  like in Abueva’s Madangal in front of the CAL building. The female figure in a staunch combative stance, a notion that strength and bravery comes from the physical thus reinforcing the masculine and feminine divide.


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Sandra Torrijos’ Inang Bayan
Rita Gudino’s Mebuyan sa Idalmunon

In constrast to Cacnio and Abueva, the female form in the works of Sandra Torrijos and Rita Gudino depicts a different rendering. UPCFA professor Rita Gudino’s Mebuyan sa Idalmunon at the University Lagoon, is a many-breasted woman emerging from a pedestal. The pedestal is the kalawakan or eternity from where Mabuyan rises because she is a goddess who travels the dead to the eternal. The dead children suckle from her breasts until they grow and be able to join Gimokudan and their dead relatives and ancestors for eternity. Mebuyan, though it sounds ironic, is the giver of life for the dead. She is a mother who nourishes the earth and the bringer of life, of children to would-be mothers. As with Sandra, Rita took inspiration from the tradition, a Bagobo mythodology. Her rendition of the female body is as how one could have imagined from the myth. But yet, though somewhat “naturalistic”, the “truth” in representation of a mother’s body — the full heavy breasts and the round full buttocks of a woman who has given birth and breastfed, are far from the “ideal”.

“Inang Bayan” by Sandra Torrijos is a larger-than-life three dimensional mosaic on concrete stylised depiction of a woman wearing the Philippine flag stands proud and resolute in front of the Center for Women’s Studies. Inang Bayan was commissioned in celebration of the U.P. centennial and the 20th anniversary of the University Center for Women’s Studies in December 8, 2008. The center’s objective is to promote feminist scholarship and activism which may have guided Sandra to look for insipration from the traditional, the Babaylan. The Babaylan is a traditional healer and a spiritual leader in many “indigenous” or ethnolinguistic groups in the country. The Babaylan officiates rituals and the keeper of local knowledge. They are the go-to  in local communities for illness, blessings, and birth-giving. Most times the female Babaylan is also the paltera, the manghihilot, and the manggagamot. They consider themselves stewards of Mother Earth and so they take care of the forest where their livelihood depends on. In her work, she depicts the woman in her entirety, enriched with symbolisms to show us the woman’s many roles as healer, mother, teacher, and activist; all these embodied and connected to Mother Nature and the many aspects of herself — the “physical, emotional, mental, psychic and spiritual self.” Inang Bayan is the representation of Mother Nature depicted as an ancient tree of life and knowledge that, to borrow the indigenous’ favorite phrase, “has been there since time immemorial”, standing there looking stoic and static… as though it seems. But no, she is digging her roots deep down into the earth, holding tightly unto the land that nourishes her and gave her her identity and her purpose. She is also branching out, where the leaves become her crown, and the sprouting leaf at her feet symbolising new knowledge and a new evolving self. Inang Bayan is the representation of Feminist Scholarship. A feminist paradigm is lived experience, a concretely grounding of one’s self, a continuously interacting and learning from others, from what’s new and re-learning from our past; promotes dialogue and reflexivity by being inclusive of other identities, ethnicity, race, class. (Denzin and Lincoln, Qualitative Research, Sage:1998)  Inang Bayan branches and reaches out with an open book in her left hand, while the right  hand is placed on her heart as a gesture of love and concern. On the book’s page shows a woman dancing, celebrating the complex roles and nature of women. Colors dazzle and radiate as light touches on the mosaic tiles covering Inang Bayan’s body and her platform, mesmerizing the looker while reflecting on a wise, discerning, evolving and passionate woman. If we try to look closer, we might just see our reflection on her, identify with her, and even become her.

The narrative in the works of Cacnio, Abueva, Torrijos, and Gudino is a celebration of women and her power: the transcending of women’s role beyond domesticity and acknowledging her strength and powerful role as noursisher of the mind, body, soul, and the earth; she is resilient, fights back, and able to struggle and rise from the confines that bind her; she is capable of giving life and even taking away life. However differing in their rendition, which can be quite strikingly blatant, the difference between the male and female artists is their concept on the female, the feminine and femininity, therefore it shows how the woman, her body and identity are being situated, signified and re-presented in a creative form.

Feminism has become a grand narrative but it is dynamic and evolving, and has gone beyond the call for gender equality — beyond simple recognition and acceptance on the difference and value of the feminine. It is not just seeking equality within the present patriarchal structure. Feminism, in its essence, is breaking down regressive and oppressive structures, rejecting taboos and constricting spaces. Feminism is creating a world that is inclusive, progressive, reflexive, emphatic and nurturing as opposed to the present-day neoliberal and patriarchal characteristics that promotes competitiveness, exclusivity, disenfranchisement, exploitation and discrimination on women, other identities, class, ethnicity, and race.

Lastly, feminism is not only a theory or narrative, but also praxis. The attacks and threats on women, ethnic groups, the vulnerable and the marginalised by world leaders and our own president are frighteningly real. Even more frightening is the thought of how these attacks will influence the minds of children. How can we speak of and limit our call for gender equality when there is even a re-definition by the state on what is to be human? Women are objects, the destitutes and people who use drugs are not human. Therefore, artists, art critics/historians, curators, the academe, art and cultural institutions have an important task in pointing out and grappling these problems and contradictions in art and society while engaging with the public; and actively endorse a feminist and humanistic stance and practice not only in art but also in our everyday life.

A Madrasah in Zamboanga: a place where girls can learn, play, and laugh

Weekends are usually resting days for most of us, but in the mornings in Zamboanga del Sur that is the time when one could easily notice groups of girls in hijab, sometimes with their mothers, walking not to frolic but to go school. The madrasah in Zamboanga del Sur is a not-for-profit learning center for anyone (yes, even for non-muslims) to learn arabic. Many of the children who study here are from farming families in nearby communities. Noticeable is that many of the students are girls.

Children play during break from class. They take arabic language lessons on weekends in an islamic school in Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur, south of the Philippines.September 6, 2015.
A teacher presides over a language class in Zamboaga
Children take arabic language lessons during the weekend in an islamic school in Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur, south of the Philippines.September 6, 2015


Harvest time

Harvest time in Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur involves the family and relatives. They sell their harvest so they could buy rice and other necessities, they said.

A woman selling fruits along the highway in Molave, Zamboanga del Sur

Woman drying fish to sell in the market at the beach in Zamboanga del Sur

Twice Relocated Samal Family

This family of Samal ethnicity originated from Sulu. Because of the ongoing war in their native home, they transferred to Pagadian where they set up their home along the shore line of Moro Bay, only to be razed down by fire. Rumors say that it was to get rid of the squatters, who among them are Badjaos, to make way for the construction of a boulevard. Where fishing as their main source of livelihood, they found the beach side of Tukuran as their new home. 31 August 2015.

After the Siege: Refugees in Zamboanga City

In September 2013, the city of Zamboanga became the battle ground between rebels and government forces. Many were displaced as a result, most of them from indigenous tribes that live in the coastline of the city. Their homes were razed down and lost most of their personal properties. The survivors resettled in other parts of the city. But some chose to go back to rebuild their original settlement with the help of the government.