MindanaoArt: Building a community of artists aware of their unique identity | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Various sculptures and Kublai Millan’s paintings
Various sculptures and Kublai Millan’s paintings

Where is Mindanao art in the Philippine art scene?

This question was raised by Vim Nadera, keynote speaker at the 1st Mindanao Art Fair, Exhibit and Conference (MindanaoArt for short) held in Davao last Oct. 4-6. Nadera, a professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman, is a multiawarded poet, essayist, playwright and novelist.

He cited iconic Mindanao images: sarimanok, okir, agung, kulintang, kubing, singkil, pangalay, torogan, malong, sarong, t’nalak, the Darangen—many art forms predating Islamization and Christianization.

He reminded his listeners of the film “Badjao,” which won for National Artist Lamberto Avellana the Asian best director award in Tokyo in 1957. Nadera also mentioned a vision of Mindanao art by National Artist Abdulmari Asia Imao, as well as the sweet memories of Tausug dance in the pangalay by Ramon Magsaysay awardee Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa. She’s the wife of Datu Punjungan Amilbangsa, younger brother of the last reigning monarch of the Sulu Sultanate.

But there is more to vibrant, colorful Mindanao art than all these.

Sustainable industry

“The inspiration for MindanaoArt came when I was invited to be a resource speaker in the Visayan Islands Visual Arts Exhibit Conference (Viva ExCon) in 2016,” said Kublai Millan, a prolific artist from Cotabato City. He is also executive director and president of Lawig-Diwa Inc., recipient of the first regional art fair competitive grant offered by the national committee on art galleries of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

“In Viva ExCon, I saw how art can bring people together to learn and benefit from each other and was inspired by it. We set up the Panag-abut Art Residency in 2017, which gathered thriving artists from Luzon and Visayas who interacted with artists and art students in Davao.”

He added: “MindanaoArt’s mission is to bring to life a sustainable art industry in Mindanao. The vision is to build a thriving community of artists who are aware of our identity and can thus offer what is uniquely ours.”

Top officials of the NCCA graced the gala opening of MindanaoArt at the Davao Gaisano Mall’s Atrium on Oct. 4, led by newly appointed executive director Al Ryan Alejandre, NCCA commissioner Fr. Harold Rentoria, head of national committee on museums Amado Alvarez and head of the national committee on art galleries John Delan Robillos.

National Artist for Film Kidlat Tahimik delivered his message by giving a performance that highlighted the indigenous culture of the Cordilleras, and by extension, that of Mindanao.


MindanaoArt brought together 10 exhibitors—four from Davao City art spaces and galleries, four from regional groups and two special booths from invited artists.

From Davao City, the Art Portal Gallery for Contemporary Art featured the exhibit, “Meander,” curated by Laya Boquiren.

Meanwhile, “The Twinning of Creation and Destruction” by Bintana Art Gallery featured works curated by a participating artist himself, Victor Secuya.

“The Silent Witness” by Piguras Davao

From an art collective named Piguras Davao, a two-panel mural done in oil, measuring 6 ft x 20 ft each, served as the central piece of the MindanaoArt exhibit. Titled “The Silent Witness,” it takes inspiration from the rich history of Davao, its indigenous mythologies, popular culture and surreal symbolism, said anthropologist Vinci Bueza of the Ateneo de Davao University.

Tabula Rasa Art Group presented 12 classic impressionist and realist paintings and three bigger-than-life sculptural pieces whose theme is “Leaving and Living.”

Gallery Down South in Balai ni Kublai at Maa featured the artworks of Kublai Millan and invited artists who shared their expertise during the Artist Talks held at the Philippine Women’s College of Davao the day after the gala.

Meanwhile, Rosalie Zerrudo is the mover behind Inday Dolls featuring creations of female inmates in Iloilo City, they who embroidered vagina images on an installation that seemed flippant but underscored the plight of women in a misogynistic society.

From Datu Bago Gallery Café of Davao City National High School, senior high students put up an 8 ft x 32 ft acrylic on canvas polyptych titled “Hinabing mga Kulay.” Curated by their art instructor Jefferson Bangot, it was featured as the centerpiece on the Gaisano Mall Atrium stage.

Participating regional groups were the Talaandig soil artists from Bukidnon, the Gallery of the Peninsula and the Archipelago of Ateneo de Zamboanga University, the Museum of Three Cultures of the Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro and Likha-Caraga Inc. of Butuan City.

The only indigenous artists represented in MindanaoArt this time around were the Talaandigs of Bukidnon headed by the musician-artist who started it all 20 years ago, Rodelio “Waway” Saway.

Kublai Millan, Tess Rayos del Sol, Riza Muyot, Agi Pagkatipunan and other guests

They used soil as medium to create 39 paintings titled “Colors of the Earth.” They tell the story of the Talaandig, their beliefs, myths and discourses on cultural erosions and ecological degradation.

Adzu Gallery of the Peninsula and the Archipelago showed works of Edwin Jumalon, Lorna Fernandez and Kiko Miranda in their exhibit titled “Flujos (Flow),” curated by Janine Michelle Cabato.

From Cagayan de Oro City, the Capitol University’s Museum of Three Cultures put up a photo and performance art exhibit by photojournalist Froilan Gallardo and performance artist Nicolas Aca on the Marawi Siege.

The museum with art and artifacts of migrants, indigenous peoples and Moros opened in May 2008 and is a member of the International Council of Museums, the International Committee of Museums of Archeology and History, and the International Movement for a New Museology.

Satellite exhibits

Apart from the exhibit at Gaisano Mall, Lawig-Diwa’s Millan and Stella Estremera, former editor in chief of Sun Star Davao, also put up various satellite exhibits in the city.

At the Waterfront Hotel, BaiHinang’s 10th Art Exhibit, which ran till Oct. 31, will benefit the Ribbon of Hope Cancer Care Advocacy of the Davao Doctors Hospital.

There were also exhibits at Art Portal Gallery and Datu Bago Art Gallery Café.

Meantime, the Philippine Women’s College of Davao senior high school visual arts group held their annual exhibit Oct. 3-19 at the Morning Light Gallery and Art Shop.

Artist talks

Diverse topics ranging from art curatorship, art education and art criticism, historical painting, artist-community collaboration and art as social enterprise, as well as public art, art competition and artist residency were discussed by Elba Cruz, Gerry Leonardo, Cid Reyes, Dominic Rubio, Rosalie Zerrudo, Melissa Yeung-Yap, Jack Teotico, Leeroy New, Pope Dalisay, and Riel Hilario in their artist talks held at the whole-day conference at the Philippine Women’s College.

The 1st Mindanao Art Fair has taken the first move to call attention to what Mindanao offers to the art world. Millan noted that galleries and art spaces hold the key.

He said: “With MindanaoArt, we are aspiring to reach out to as many galleries and art spaces and convince them that there is a lush market here [in Mindanao] just waiting to be tapped for as long as they do their work of discovering talents, promoting artists and delivering their artists’ works to the attention of the patrons.”

The Talaandigs of Bukidnon

From Mindanao, he has also brought his art to ManilArt since 2017 through the invitation of sculptor Danny Rayos del Sol and his wife, ManilArt director Tess Rayos del Sol.

On the successful 11th ManilArt recently held at SM Aura, Millan and Danny Rayos del Sol joined forces with furniture maker Agi Pagkatipunan and poet Riza Muyot for an exhibit showcasing poetry, painting and sculpture all in a single artwork.

With all the talents that are emerging from the whole country showing diverse cultures of our islands, and the concerted efforts to bring them together, it’s not farfetched that our country will continue to be an exciting and rich source of artworks for the world to appreciate and collect. —CONTRIBUTED