Latest Stories

77th-birthday exhibit surveys achievements of National Artist Imao


Abdulmari Imao is perhaps the most “Asian” of National Artists for the Visual Arts.

Born and raised in Sulu, Imao  celebrates his Mindanaoan heritage by drawing inspiration from Tausug and Maranaw art and lore, and from the richness of Southeast Asian  mythological traditions.

With his consistent and successful use of folk themes, myths and legends, his work strongly links Filipino, Malay and Indonesian cultures together.

Imao creates and assumes, both with his sculptures and paintings, Southeast Asian archetypes.

His most familiar motif, for example, the sarimanok, is essentially a link to that story of the rooster in the first of seven heavens. Aside from the belief that it brings good luck, the sarimanok, a bird whose vibrantly colored tail is believed to have been dipped in the rainbow, is said to be a messenger of the gods or the mythical lover of a datu’s beautiful daughter.

“Sarimanok with 8 Fishes” Series

The motif persists in different Southeast Asian cultures—the serpent naga of Malaysia, for example. These regional thematic linkages set the practice of Imao apart in the Philippine art community.

On the occasion of the National Artist’s 77th birthday, Galerie Joaquin examines Imao’s navigation through national and regional mythologies through an exhibition of his latest works, “Mythical Realms,” which opens on Jan. 31 at Galerie Joaquin’s main gallery in San Juan.

The exhibition looks into three of Imao’s most iconic design themes: sarimanok, the sari fish and calligraphy.

In acrylic-on-canvas paintings and brass/wood sculptures, Imao revels in the bold use of bright colors, bold lines, and an abstract, stained-glass-window-like aesthetic sensibility.

His works prominently feature the ukkil or okir—geometric flowing designs used to decorate Southern traditional clothing, weapons and houses.

His work featuring the sari fish acknowledges that he was once a fisherman.  Inspired by the colorful fish of Sulu Sea, he lets his imagination run rampant with the vivid colors he uses in his paintings.

Imao graduated from the College of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines, where his teachers included National Artists Guillermo Tolentino and Napoleon Abueva.


As a Smith Mundt and Fulbright scholar, he received a Master of Fine Arts degree from  University of Kansas. He did postgraduate research at Rhode Island School of Design and Columbia University.

He became National Artist in 2006.

In a profile on Imao, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts notes: “Through his works, the indigenous ukkil, sarimanok and naga motifs have been popularized and instilled in the consciousness of the Filipino nation and other peoples as original Filipino creations.”

Among his major works are the “Industry Brass Mural,” Philippine National Bank, San Fernando, La Union; “ Mural Relief on Filmmaking,” Manila City Hall; “Industrial Mural,” Central Bank of the Philippines, San Fernando, La Union; and “Sulu Warriors” (statues of Panglima Unaid and Captain Abdurahim Imao), Sulu Provincial Capitol.


Abroad, his calligraphic brass sculptures and paintings are in the Philippine embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

With his expertise, Imao has helped develop brass-casting technologies in other Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia.

“Mythical Realms” runs until Feb. 14 at Galerie Joaquin (371 P. Guevarra St. and Montessori Lane, Addition Hills,  San Juan). Call tel. 632-7239418 or e-mail  info@galeriejoaquin.com. Visit www.galeriejoaquin.com.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Abdulmari Imao , Lifestyle , People , Visual arts

  • generalproblem

    nice yan ang dapat tularang ng abu sayyaf

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  3. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  4. No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  5. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  6. The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  7. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  8. Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  9. What has happened to Barrio Fiesta and Singing Cooks & Waiters?
  10. Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  5. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  6. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  7. This is not just a farm
  8. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  9. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  10. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer


  • Santiago: Enrile, Lacson, Reyes plotting massive psywar operation
  • Poe, Cayetano to colleagues: Shun formalities, let’s hear Napoles’ tell-all ASAP
  • Name names, Lacson dared
  • 4.6-magnitude quake hits Surigao del Norte
  • Camilla’s brother dies of NYC head injury
  • Sports

  • Promoters Dela Hoya, Arum in talks for Pacquiao-Alvarez—report
  • Benzema guides Madrid to 1-0 win over Bayern
  • Suns’ Goran Dragic win NBA’s Most Improved Player award
  • Heat go up 2-0, hold off Bobcats 101-97
  • Ronaldo shakes off injury fears to play Bayern
  • Lifestyle

  • This woman ate what?
  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • 12th Philippine Food Expo set at the World Trade Center
  • No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  • The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  • Entertainment

  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Return of ‘Ibong Adarna’
  • Practical Phytos plans his future
  • Business

  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Cost-recovery provisions for affected gencos urged
  • This time, BIR goes after florists
  • Technology

  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • No travel restriction to Mideast, DFA clarifies
  • PH-HK relations repaired, but families of victims still being courted
  • Filipinos in Middle East urged to get clearance before returning
  • PH seeks ‘clearer assurance’ from US
  • China and rivals sign naval pact to ease maritime tensions