Sometimes a slight shift in the environment is enough to change perspective. Such was the case for Christine Cipriano, a Kalibo based artist who completed her residency at Elmo's House in March. Kalibo, a bustling town a mere hour away from Batan meant Christine was not far from her backyard. Accustomed to the local politics, customs, culture, climate, etc., Christine did not have to make the kind of calibrations artists from elsewhere had to make.
The focus then was a kind of reengagement. The residency gave space for pondering and observation to a refreshing degree.
Christine Cipriano is a recent graduate of Saint Scholastica's College in Manila with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. As a strategy to decompress and restore autonomy from years of post-secondary education, Christine was set to spend her residency developing her studio practice outside a formal setting.
Weekly excursions by boat and land introduced Christine to the natural beauty of the area and in her words, a 'renewed appreciation for her Filipino heritage.’ When the days were quiet, Christine poured over books and papers about the unique phenomenon of Filipino migration or diaspora. This research was done in concert with art classes Christine lead at I Learn Child Centre in Batan, Aklan. Working with grade-school children, Christine sought to understand how the diaspora influenced children's' dreams for their future. Through the exercise of visualizing their grown-up selves, the children drew what could be.
The classes ranged from grade 2 to grade 6 levels, each week and for about 3-4 hours at a time. Each day began with a presentation of different countries with large Filipino-immigrant or OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) communities and brainstorming various career paths. Majority of the children contributed to the discussion, bringing their experience, as they know at least one relative, friend or neighbour living and working outside the Philippines. One child even lived in UAE (United Arab Emirates) for a time.
Christine Cipriano's residency finished with an exhibition at Paniki Gallery titled Musyon mag Unga! Sa Inyong Pangabuhi (Come Children! To your Career), featuring the works completed from the art classes. Drawn on Manila paper, and arranged by country and occupation, the children's' works reveal much of them want to stay in the Philippines, working in tertiary industries such as education and medicine. There were outliers like gym owners, artists, pilots and one adorable superhero. Earnest and truthful, the artworks are compelling evidence of the myriad ways diaspora affects precocious minds.
The academic readings that formed the basis of Christine's research were, in many ways, eclipsed by the truthfulness of the children's drawings. Absorbing the things seen on TV, the desire and reverence of imported goods, the assimilation of western ideals in education, the alluring examples of financial success of overseas workers, have all affected the dreams of our future makers.
What then will come of all this? Can we anticipate the future of our ever-evolving geography?
Derived from the Greek term diasperien, from dia-, "across" and –sperien, "to sow or scatter seeds," diaspora groups have been historically referred to as displaced communities of people, dislocated from their native homeland through the movement of migration, immigration, or exile (Braziel & Mannur, 2003, 1). More recently, Fiona Adamson and Madeleine Demetriou (2007, 492) view the concept of 'diaspora' as being "employed across a variety of disciplines in the social sciences as a means of studying the relationship between territorially defined forms of political organization and control, and the articulation and mobilization of political identifications." As such, diaspora are commonly defined as migrants who maintain a strong attachment to their homeland (Cohen, 1996)—often existing as a social collectivity that spans across state borders (Adamson & Demetriou, 2007, 497). Additionally, Robin Cohen (1996, 515) identifies common features of diaspora, including: a collective memory and myth about the homeland, including its location, history and achievements; a sense of empathy and solidarity with co-ethnic members in other countries of settlement; an idealization of the putative ancestral home and a collective commitment to its maintenance, restoration, safely and prosperity even to its creation; the development of a return movement; a strong ethnic group consciousness sustained over a long time and based on a sense of distinctiveness; and a common history and the belief in a common fate.
Vander Meulen, Jocelyn. Citizenship and Diaspora Engagement: The Case of the Philippines. School of Political Studies Faculty of Social Sciences University of Ottawa, pp10, 2016. uOttowa, https://ruor.uottawa.ca/handle/10393/34538
To learn more about the exhibition Musyon mag Unga! Sa Inyong Pangabuhi, please visit: