From Word Play to Child’s Play

By: Ann Krystine C. Balmaceda

Photos courtesy of atmos.ph

SUGIDANON ‘Ta, Hampang ‘Ta: Tikum Kadlum, a project of the University of San Agustin’s Fine Arts program faculty and students, is comprised of seven 6×4 ft. paintings, a shadow play video, and a board game depicting an epic of the sugidanon, the oral tradition of the Panay Bukidnon community.  The exhibit is located at Gallery i in Iloilo City and will run until the 31st of October.

The sugidanon was traditionally chanted by the binukot, young women secluded by their families from society to attain a higher price from their suitors. The sugidanon, and its original keepers, the binukot, are both disappearing practices from a group threatened by poverty and eviction from their ancestral lands. The project is an adaptation of Dr. Alicia P. Magos’ 25-year research and documentation of a fading tradition.

Tikum, meaning crooked, and Kadlum, darkness, both refer to the black, crooked-tailed hunting dog who, with Dumaraog and Paiburong, comprise three out of the hundreds of characters in the sugidanon. We follow their adventure and their misdeed that angers Makabagting, a forest-dwelling giant, and signals the beginning of their troubles.

The seven paintings depict key events in the epic. There is some dissonance in seeing local folktale illustrated in a style seemingly inspired by anime or Western comics. However, it is understandable if we perceive the story through the lenses of students, and their influences, which include a medium introduced to us by the West, and further transformed by other cultural imports such as Japanese anime.

Each painting is framed by a two inch-wide border consisting of red and white shapes derived from the traditional imagery of the Panay Bukidnon community. While this ties the paintings together, it remains apparent that they are a product of a collaborative effort. There are notable differences in the styles, techniques and even the moods of the individual pieces. These variances exist without detracting or distracting from the storytelling. However, the story being cut off at the last painting, with no resolution to the fate and dilemmas of the characters, could leave a visitor with a sense of having viewed something unfinished. An explicit invitation for further research and an explanation that the project covered but a section of an expansive literary work would benefit the viewers.

The exhibit was made to capture the imagination of children: the paintings were intended to be viewed simultaneously with the shadow play footage; and an 8×4 ft., Snakes and Ladders-inspired board game hangs at the end of the gallery awaiting engagement. It is worthwhile to consider the irony in which perhaps the most effective way of introducing our native culture to our children is by packaging it in more familiar Western concepts.

The project’s intention is noble. It aims to aid in the preservation of a culture that could disappear without the transcription of the oral works into more tangible forms. The project also exposes us to a part of our history that, otherwise, some would not have known.

While the intention is noble, the execution fell somewhat short. Thankfully, the artists are aware of their limitations and shortcomings: from the inaccuracies in the depiction of the clothing, hairstyle and body type of the characters, to the time constraint that prevented them from creating a more authentic experience (the video would’ve benefited more if it were narrated in the original Ligbok and subtitled in English). This self-awareness could lead to more accurate and nuanced efforts in the future.

Projects such as Sugidanon ‘Ta, Hampang ‘Ta should be lauded and supported. In raising awareness of these traditions, they are also raising awareness of the existence and plight of a marginalized indigenous people. They reignite interest in our native history, open conversations about our identity, and hopefully, provide avenues for support, not just of the culture, but of the people to whom these works and traditions belong.

 

-oOo-

 

‘SALVATOR MUNDI’

Da Vinci’s $100-M rediscovered painting of Christ goes on show

IT WAS sold for £45 (approximately $60) in 1958—and now it’s worth an estimated $100 million.

Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” a painting of Jesus Christ, has been hailed by auction house Christie’s as “the greatest artistic rediscovery of the 21st century.”

Currently on display at Christie’s in London before its sale next month in New York, the artwork is one of fewer than twenty known paintings by Leonardo—and the only one owned privately.

Dating from around 1500, the oil on panel canvas depicts a half-length figure of Christ. The work was always believed to have existed but its whereabouts was widely unknown until it reemerged in 2005.

The painting was first recorded during the reign of King Charles I (1600 – 1649) and then disappeared from 1763 to 1900, when the figure’s face and hair were over-painted with a beard and mustache.

In 1958 the altered work was sold for £45 at a Sotheby’s sale before disappearing again until 2005, when it was purchased from an American estate at a small regional auction house.

Its rediscovery was followed by six years of intense research to document its authenticity with the world’s leading authorities on the works and career of da Vinci.

Christie’s has now put “Salvator Mundi” on tour, showing the painting at exhibitions in London, Hong Kong, New York and San Francisco. At the San Francisco display, thousands of people queued for hours to see the work.

The painting will be offered in Christie’s Evening Sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art on November 15, 2017 in Rockefeller Plaza. (Agence France-Presse)

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