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3rd Mindanao Art Fair


THE biggest art fair and exhibit in Mindanao opens on October 1, 2021 online with 35 art groups and four featured artists participating. The 2021 Mindanao Art Fair, the third since it was launched in 2019 now has the participation of five of six administrative regions in Mindanao.

This is organized by Lawig-Diwa Inc. through a grant by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts-National Committee on Art Galleries (NCCA-NCAG).

Since face to face events are not allowed in Davao City due to the pandemic, MindanaoArt 2021 will be a combination of virtual and physical exhibition, with greater bulk of the activity happening online. Artworks will be displayed physically at the Poblacion Market Central (a new commercial complex in Davao, formerly the Madrazo Fruit Stand), and can be viewed at Mindanao Art’s website ( and facebook page (Mindanao Art). There will be a virtual opening ceremony on October 1, 2021 to officially start the exhibit.


A limited number of visitors are allowed per day at a 2-hour interval to view the artwork display at Poblacion Market Central during the month-long exhibit. Interested art collectors and enthusiasts, art teachers and students can obtain a Mindanao Art QR code and book their visit online at Health and safety protocols will be strictly implemented at the exhibit.

This year’s theme, “Art in Between: Mindanao Art in Liminal Space”, takes off from the major disruption Covid-19 caused across all sectors, the art sector included. Thus, this year’s MindanaoArt highlights the butterfly, to underscore the creature’s momentary beauty, as the art fair invites everyone to focus on the now even as it aspires to encourage artistry that is rooted to Mindanao identity to create a thriving visual art industry.

The physical exhibit will feature a cocoon to allow the viewers to experience the concept of liminal space and one’s emergence in the now.

The four featured individual artists are: Tanya Gaisano Lee, Jag Bueno, Lucas Rañola, and Elenita “Boots” Dumlao.

Participating from the five of six regions of Mindanao are:

Northern Mindanao (5 groups): Talaandig Soil Artists (Lantapan, Bukidnon), Capitol University Museum of Three Cultures (Cagayan de Oro City), Studio One Art Gallery (Iligan City), Cagayan de Oro Artist Guild (CDO) and Arkadia Collective (CDO).

Zamboanga Peninsula (3 groups): Lumbayao Artists Collective (Zamboanga Sibugay), Good Times Gallery (Dipolog City), and Pinturas en Liensoz Artist Society Zamboanga City (PLASOZ).

Caraga (3 groups): Agusan Artists Association (Agusan), Likha-Karaga (Butuan City), and Alampat Gallery/Guhit Pinas-Agusan (Butuan City).

Socsksargen (2 groups): Mugna Heneral VA Group (General Santos City) and Irinugyun Artist Guild (Kidapawan City).

Davao Region (20 groups): TheBau Haus Gallery (Davao City), DS Foundation for the Differently-Abled Inc. (Davao City), Datu Bago Gallery Cafe (Davao City), Kasing Art Gallery (Davao City), Gallery Down South (Davao City), Abung Bughaw (Davao City), Mugna Artist Collective (Davao City), Kalapati Art Group (Davao City), GAMA (Davao City), Dibuho Art Dabaw Group (Davao City), La Herencia (Davao City),  Gallery Raphael (Davao City),  Davao Fashion Designer -Visual Artists Collab – ART WAK (Davao City) Davao del Norte Province (Davao del Norte), Sandog-Tagum City Historical and Cultural Center (Tagum City, Davao del Norte), Sining Mata (Tagum City, DN), Pintagum (Tagum City, DN), Jing Cayacay Rabat Art Gallery (City of Mati, Davao Oriental), Dibuho Art Group (Digos City, Davao del Sur), Arts Guild of Nabunturan (Nabunturan, Davao de Oro)

Mixed groups all over Mindanao (2): Kulit Kultura and AHON Mindanao Watercolor Group.


MindanaoArt is organized in partnership with the National Commission on Culture and the Arts-National Committee on Art Galleries and Poblacion Market Central with media partners Beta Studio, APM, Sun.Star Davao, GMA, Art+ Magazine, The Philippine Star, Edge Davao, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and ABS-CBN. LAWIG-DIWA PR

Source: 3rd Mindanao Art Fair –

Where is Mindanao in the Philippine art scene? Visit the 1st Mindanao Art Fair and Exhibit


DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 04 October) – “Where is Mindanao in the Philippine art scene? Is there such a thing as Mindanao art?”

Visit Davao City on October 5 and 6 for the 1st Mindanao Art Fair and Exhibit (MindanaoArt) and find out the answers to these questions posed by Vim Nadera, Father of Performance Poetry and Director of the UP Institute of Creative Writing.

“Traversing the River of Creativity” is the theme of MindanaoArt which will feature a main exhibit at the atrium of Gaisano Mall on October 5 and 6 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and a conference open to the public at the RSM Events Center of the Philippine Women’s College on October 5 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There are also satellite exhibits in the city’s art galleries and a hotel in Davao City.

The main exhibit will feature at least 67 artists from ten art galleries and groups – six from Davao and one each from Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga and Bukidnon.

From the exhibit notes, MindaNews counted at least 38 participating artists from Davao City and 29 from the other parts of Mindanao.

Nadera, who will keynote the conference on October 5, gave a preview of his talk during the press conference Thursday afternoon.

“As an outsider,” he said, he would ask “where is Mindanao in the Philippine art scene? Is there such thing as Mindanao art? As a writer, I’ll be asking where is Mindanao in Philippine literature in Philippine dance in Philippine music in Philippine theatre in Philippine film in Philippine culinary arts? Where is Mindanao in, of course, the visual arts?”

Nadera also wants to know who is a Mindanao artist. “How would you define a Mindanao artist? Should he or she be a Lumad? Should he or she be a Muslim? Or should he or she be a langyaw or a settler or a tagalabas, a migrant?”

“Sila’y atong paadtuon diri”

MindanaoArt is a project of Lakbay-Diwa, a Davao City-based organization promoting art and helping artists. Rey Mudjahid “Kublai” Millan, famous for his huge sculptural pieces and art installations that have become landmarks not only in Davao City but in other parts of Mindanao is its President, and Stella Estremera, former Sun.Star Davao editor in chief who continues to write a column for the paper, is its secretary/treasurer.

In a pre-event video, Millan said collectors, owners of art galleries, and art patrons in Manila “would all come down to Mindanao and makit-an nila in front of their eyes na kuyaw gyud diay kaayo ning mga artists sa Mindanao. So Instead na kami ang muadto dito, sila’y atong paadtuon diri” (they will see how good these Mindanao artists are so instead of us going there, we will let them come here).

Millan explained they chose the theme “Traversing the River of Creativity” because “if this is going to be the first ever Mindanao art fair, we might as well start from the very beginning … mas maganda kung balikan natin ang nakaraan bago tayo pumunta sa kung saan man tayo papunta (it’s better to go back to our past before we proceed to wherever we may want to go). We are trying to define however which way we express yung kaluluwa, yung spirit ng (the soul, the spirt of) Mindanao but we can only do that if we start from the beginning. That’s why we were encouraging galleries and artists to first back track, from the source of all source, back to the river of creativity.”

Senior high school artists of the Davao City National High School with their teacher Jefferson Bangot with the 8ftx32ft polytych they are showing during the MindanaoArt. Photo courtesy of MindanaoArt

READ: Traversing the River of Creative Generations

Millan said it will be the first time where viewers get to see “so much Mindanao-inspired art works” that would hopefully make them “feel the collective spirit from the different inspirations coming from the different regions in Mindanao and different art groups.”

“It’s so exciting to be able to see for the first time a unified Mindanao in terms of art,” he said.

Mindanao art industry

Estremera said Mindanao Art is the “first ever attempt to gather art groups, art galleries from all over Mindanao in an attempt to start up a movement to stimulate an art industry kasi Mindanao has a lot of artists, all kinds of artists in fact, and there’s a lot of inspiration but there is no industry to speak of that can sustain a livelihood for the artist.”

READ: Renowned art personalities to share expertise in MindaArt

At the press conference, Estremera said they look forward to an art industry in Mindanao “that is grounded on the roots of Mindanao. Di lang kumikita but kitang-kita na Mindanao siya.”

MindanaoArt is supported by a grant from the National Commission on Culture and the Arts-National Committee on Art Galleries (NCCA-NCAG) under the Regional Art Fair category. Lawig-Diwa submitted a proposal and won the competitive grant in December 2018 and has applied for the staging of the second MindanaoArt in 2020.

The organizers proposed the project to “provide a venue for gallery owners and art patrons to scrutinize Mindanao’s best; bring art collectors to view and buy Mindanao’s best; push local gallery owners and art spaces to sustain an industry manned by local talents thru interaction with established art galleries in the national capital; be an annual gathering for learning and interacting with art industry movers who are exposed to a vibrant, self-sustaining, and profitable art scene; and stimulate a culture of knowing one’s community among the local artists and find an identity that is uniquely Mindanao.”

Museums and Galleries Month

MindanaoArt is part of the NCCA’s celebration of the Museum and Galleries Month with the theme “Building the Nation, One Exhibit at a Time.”

The celebration, according to John Delan Robillos, head of the NCCA-NCAG, underscores the role of museums and galleries as “custodians not only of our historical past but of our future.”

Father Harold Rentoria, Commissioner for Cultural Heritage at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, (holding mike), hopes to see more artists participating in regional art fairs, not just from the center but from the periphery. Beside him is John Delan Robillos, head of the NCCA’s National Committee on Art Galleries. On the extreme left is Melissa Yeung-Yap and beside her is Stella Estremera of the organizing team. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO BUENO

“We want the public to realize that these institutions are centers of our consciousness which fuel our common identity and aspirations as a nation.”

Robillos said “everyone is so excited about the Mindanao Art Fair” especially since the art scene in the past was “always centered in Manila.”

Father Harold Rentoria, NCCA Commissioner for Cultural Heritage recalled that in his six years at the NCCA, “naka-centralize sa Manila ang activites.” He expressed hope that the regional art fairs like MindanaoArt “will encourage not only artists malapit lang sa sentro, hindi lang sana taga-Davao but artists from different provinces in Mindanao.” He cited the T’bolis in Sultan Kudarat and others from Maguindanao and the youth who could be the future national artists.

Participating artists

Art galleries and art groups that are participating in MindanaoArt are Gallery Down South, Tabula Rasa Art Gallery, Bintana Art Gallery, Piguras Davao, Art Portal Gallery for Contemporary Art and Datu Bago Gallery and Café, all in Davao City; Talaandig Soil Painters from Bukidnon; Capitol University Museum of Three Cultures from Cagayan de Oro; Likha-Caraga from Butuan City; and the Zamboanga-City based Ateneo de Zamboanga Gallery of the Peninsula and the Archipelago.

Davao City is in Southern Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon are in Northern Mindanao, Zamboanga is in Western Mindanao and Butuan is in Caraga region.

Mindanao has 27 provinces and 33 cities spread across six regions.

While many participating artists draw their inspiration from or are influenced by the cultures of the Lumads (Indigenous Peoples) and the Moro, only one Lumad group – the Talaandig soil painters from Bukidnon – is represented in MindanaoArt. There is no Moro art group. Organizers said they extended invitations across Mindanao and the participating artists had immediately confirmed their attendance.

Dinky Munda of Tabula Rasa reminded those who attended the press conference that aside from the main exhibit, there are satellite exhibits at the galleries of Tabula Rasa at Felcris Centrale, Art Portal along Legaspi St., Bintana at the NCCC Victoria Mall, Datu Bago Gallery at the Davao City National High School, and Morning Light Gallery along Quirino Avenue.

There is also an ongoing exhibit at the Waterfront Insular Hotel, featuring the works of Bai Hinang, an all-women’s art group of 26 women timed for Pink October, a campaign for breast cancer awareness.

There is also another exhibit at the Mindanao Folk Arts Museum at the PWC.

The duration of the “satellite exhibits” is longer, some until October 31.

“We have been preparing for this event for a long, long time. This is a long time coming. For me this is the most significant exhibit we have in Mindanao,” said the 74-year old Munda. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

Source: Where is Mindanao in the Philippine art scene? Visit the 1st Mindanao Art Fair and Exhibit | MindaNews

2nd Mindanao Art Fair opens amid pandemic

Published October 22, 2020, 2:41 PM

by Zea Capistrano

DAVAO CITY – Amidst the global health crisis, art in Mindanao continues to thrive and proof of that was the successful opening of the second Mindanao Art Fair, Exhibit, and Conference (MindanaoArt 2020) at the Malayan Colleges Mindanao campus here on Wednesday, October 21.

Spectators take a glimpse of the artworks on exhibit during the first day of the Mindanao Art Fair 2020 at Malayan Colleges of Mindanao lobby in Davao City. (Keith Bacongco)

An online gala was also hosted at the campus which was attended exclusively by invited guests and participating artists onsite and was streamed live for the global audience through the Mindanao Art Facebook page.

Biggest art event in Mindanao

MindanaoArt 2020 is the biggest art event in Mindanao and one of the biggest gatherings of artists in Southeast Asia. The event is organized by Lawig-Diwa Inc. and is supported by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts National Committee on Art Galleries (NCCA-NCAG) through a grant.

Spectators take glimpse of the artworks on exhibit during the first day of the Mindanao Art Fair 2020 at Malayan Colleges of Mindanao lobby in Davao City. (Keith Bacongco)

The theme this year centers on “art in a new landscape” and is participated by over 200 artists from  Davao City, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Caraga region, North Cotabato, General Santos City, Bukidnon province, Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan City, and Zamboanga Peninsula.

The 1st Mindanao Art Fair Exhibit and Conference (Mindanao Art 2019) was attended last year by thousands of art enthusiasts and the general public at the Gaisano Mall.

More Mindanaoan artists

In his speech during the online gala, Lawig-Diwa president Rey Mudjahid “Kublai” P. Millan said “MindanaoArt 2020 has brought together more artists than it did last year, in a feat and scale never before dared.”

“And it does much more than that. In this new uncertain landscape, we chose to make art live,” he said.

“We chose to push through with Mindanao’s biggest art event and we chose to do more, aim for more, despite or perhaps of the ongoing crisis, because crisis is the mother of revolution and Mindanao is beginning its own revolution,” Millan said.

“This is a revolution which creates new possibilities, new opportunities and new ways of thinking. It is a revolution which sees Mindanao creatives dare to carve craft,  curate a new sense of collective identity and community, a new spirit of optimism and pride, a new brand of audacity,” he added.

Millan also introduced the 10 legendary virtual museums the designs of which were inspired by iconic symbols of Mindanao including the Tapayan, Uyayi, Tambol, Kaban, Lamin, Balangay, Dabakan, Kulintang, Vinta, and Bakaw.

Artists during lockdown

One of the participating artists was an art practitioner for 15 years Victor Augustus Dumaguing.  Dumaguing was born in Zamboanga City in 1977 and has established his own non-formal visual art and music school in Tagum City, Davao del Norte province. He teaches in the College of Architecture and Fine Arts Education at the University of Mindanao in Davao City. 

Victor Augustus Dumaguing
Victor Augustus Dumaguing
Spectators take glimpse of the artworks on exhibit during the first day of the Mindanao Art Fair 2020 at Malayan Colleges of Mindanao lobby in Davao City. (Keith Bacongco)

In an interview with Manila Bulletin, Dumaguing shared that before the lockdown, he was working on some 25 artworks.

“Marami na, 25 artworks ito pero hindi pa siya finished. Nung nag-lockdown, yun na, inisa-isa ko nang tapusin pagkatapos dun ko na pinasukan ng concept na ‘stay at home’ you have to spend more time with your family,” he said.

Dumaguing said instead of letting anxiety and depression overpower him because of the pandemic, he chose to enjoy spending time with his family at home.

His artworks called “Stay At Home” depicts the daily bond among family members. Some of the artworks show a mother playing with her child and a father and his child doing gardening.

“Ang gusto kong ipalabas sa artwork ko is the positive view, hindi yung negative side (I want to show the positive view, not the negative side of it through my artwork),” he added.

His paintings resonate not only his call to strengthen the Filipino families but also the beauty of Mindanaoan culture and the intricate patterns inspired by handwoven textiles by the indigenous peoples of Mindanao.

“Inspired yan nung damit ng mga tribespeople natin. Hindi sya copied, but the process itself, the intricacy of the patterns, I applied it to the artworks,” Dumaguing said.

He said he also contacted some of his students to participate in MindanaoArt2020 by sharing their experiences during the lockdown through their artworks. The exhibit shows a total of 15 artworks by Dumaguing and his students.

Featured artists

MindanaoArt also features the works of the special artists from the Deanna Sipaco (DS) Foundation for the Differently-Abled, Inc. Their works are displayed at the center of the physical gallery.

The exhibit also features the special project entitled MinTODA by veteran artist Leonardo “Bing” Cariño.

Spectators take glimpse of the artworks on exhibit during the first day of the Mindanao Art Fair 2020 at Malayan Colleges of Mindanao lobby in Davao City. (Keith Bacongco)

According to the organizers, “Cariño’s colourful illustrations of Mindanao’s diverse tricycles will be exhibited publicly in six different major urban centers around the island, making Mindanao one large open air gallery.”

They added that the illustrations will be mounted on actual tricycles and public spaces in Pagadian City, Tagum City, Davao City, Koronadal City, General Santos City, and Midsayap, “with more towns and cities set to join.”

“Tricycle passengers will be treated to a free art show! ” they said.

After the online gala, the participating artists and guests were also introduced to Monobo cuisine prepared by Datu Hudson Bayawan of the Obo Manobo tribe in Kidapawan City.

The public can make an appointment to see the artworks at the Malayan Colleges of Mindanao from 10AM-4PM starting October 22, 2020 until November 8, 2020.

Source: 2nd Mindanao Art Fair opens amid pandemic – Manila Bulletin (

MindanaoArt 2021 presents beauty in disorienting times

Published September 30, 2021, 2:26 PM

by Noel Pabalate

An exhibit that highlights hope for a renewed life

In our days of isolation due to the health crisis, there are organizations that value the essential role of art continues to play in our lives. In its various expressions, art makes our existence meaningful especially at a time like this pandemic. Take Lawig-Diwa Inc., for example, and its efforts to make the quarantine experience pleasant through this year’s MindanaoArt Fair.


Lawig-Diwa is hosting MindanaoArt 2021 starting tomorrow, Oct. 1. until Oct. 30, 2021 at the Poblacion Market Center in Davao City with the theme “Art in Between: Mindanao Art in Liminal Space”—a recognition of our situation being in a space of ambiguity and disorientation. Nevertheless, the exhibit lets viewers experience the theme’s narrative the moment you step on the venue’s entrance.

The lighted butterfly installation and the surrounding murals by Jeff Bangot at the venue’s entrance.

What welcomes you are sculptures of tree stumps that symbolize our lives having been cut off, isolated during this pandemic. But you’ll see that they are sprouting again and growing new branches to represent our resiliency. Then, it will lead you to see and feel isolation inside a cocoon tunnel, showing the liminal space before metamorphosis. And as you come out, a lighted butterfly appears right before your eyes giving you the feeling of a renewed life, full of hope, changed.

Also, featured at the entrance that interprets this years’ theme is the two giant murals measuring 8 ft x 20 ft by Davao artist Jefferson “Jeff’ Bangot.

As MindanaoArt 2021 carries the butterfly as its icon, it invites art lovers to reflect on how COVID-19 has affected humanity and to realize that beauty is ever-present in the face of a cruel past and uncertain future.

Some of the paintings and sculptures at the MindanaoArt 2021

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, only a limited number of visitors are allowed per day at a two-hour intervals. Interested viewers need to book an appointment on its website to view the artwork display. A virtual exhibit is also available on the said site and on its Facebook page MindanaoArt. In its third year, the art fair brings together more than 300 artists featured by 35 galleries from five regions, more participants than MindanaoArt’s previous years (200 plus artists from 16 galleries). A significant number that shows art is not dying in these trying times.

A preview of the list of artists and artworks at Davao City’s Poblacion Market Center

One of the highlights of MindanaoArt 2021 is a special exhibit entitled “4 Artists, 4 Mindanao” by Tanya Lee, Elenita Dumlao, Jag Bueno, and Lucas Ranola. Moreover, it will air a fashion show dubbed “Art Walk, Art Talks” on Oct. 10, 2021 via its online platform, presenting eight Davao fashion designers’ wearable apparel that interprets masterpieces of eight visual artists.

MindanaoArt 2021, which will have a virtual opening ceremony tomorrow, is made possible also in partnership with the National Commission on Culture and the Arts and the National Committee on Art Galleries (NCCA-NCAG).

Source: MindanaoArt 2021 presents beauty in disorienting times – Manila Bulletin (



Mindanao Art 2021, with the theme, Art in between: Mindanao Art in Liminal Space, has proven, once again, that art is undying and ever relevant. For this year, Mindanao Art chooses a butterfly as its logo. Butterflies are symbols of transformation, hope, and new life. Their colours and patterns symbolize beauty—that along the process of changing, something unknown yet beautiful emerges.

The pandemic has indeed caused significant shifts in our lives. The uncertainty increases as we journey to find out what the future holds. One industry, however, has proven that despite the challenges we face, we can still hope and keep our spirits alive. Art generously teaches us the importance of endurance and embracing changes in a time of pandemic.

Mindanao Art graciously opened its doors on October 1, 2021. The organizing committee Lawig Diwa Inc. partnered with the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the National Committee on Art Galleries (NCAG). They welcomed 300 artists from 35 galleries to showcase their talent and skills. They also sent a message of solidarity that despite our cruel past and uncertain future, we can still take something good and beautiful out of our experiences.


The increase in the number of artists featured (a hundred more from last year’s 200) solidifies the relevance and power of art in times of challenges and difficulties. Indeed, art is alive and will continue to live to tell our stories and inspire current and future generations.

Despite the restrictions brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic, only limited visitors are allowed per day. Visitors will need to book an appointment to view the art fair.  However, as part of embracing the new normal, the art display continues to offer viewers a new platform to appreciate art. Viewers can visit their virtual exhibit on their site and Mindanao Art Facebook page. They will also feature eight Davao fashion designers for their virtual fashion show-themed, Art Walk, Art Talk on October 10.

In its third year, Mindanao Art continues to be a beacon of hope to artists in times of uncertainty. Their continuous effort to showcase Mindanawon artists is indeed a triumph to the art industry. They continue to send a message of hope that art will continue to the stories of our past and whatever our future holds.


A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: Review: Mindanao Art Fair 2021

A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: Review: Mindanao Art Fair 2021


Theme: Mindanao Art at Liminal Space
Venue: Poblacion Market Central, Bangoy St., Davao City
Until End of October 2021

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 9 Oct) – There is no doubt about it: the Mindanao Art Fair could very well be considered the most significant cultural event of the year 2021!

It is certainly the one major artistic accomplishment of committed visual artists across Mindanao. In sheer volume, the entire collection of works – numbering more than 600 paintings (10 huge murals; 270 medium-size, i.e., within the range of 50 to 60 inches; 300 regular size, within the range of 20 by 35 inches; and a hundred tiny pieces), along with close to a hundred sculptures (with the giant black carabao in steel greeting the visitors at the venue’s entrance) as well as 16 mannequins displaying high-end fashion – can overwhelm the viewer’s senses if viewed only in one setting.

One would need a few visits to the event’s venue to fully appreciate this wide range of a collection that occupy the two floors of the recently finished Poblacion Market Central, soon to open as a shopping center (ala the Aldevinco). The entire collection has been collected from all over Mindanao from Zamboanga peninsula in the west to the Caraga District (the old Agusan-Surigao) in the east, from the north Mindanao (Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Bukidnon) and the south (Cotabato and Davao regions). Missed are works of artists from Sulu-Basilan islands, indicating that Moro and Lumad artists remain under-represented.

As can be expected of an art fair – that is not meant to only showcase the most accomplished works of established artists but also to encourage young, budding artists, apart from another main goal which is to generate sales for these works to support starving artists affected by the pandemic – the works are uneven. But there is no question about it: this year’s Art Fair has surpassed what was accomplished in the first two art fairs in 2019 and 2020. Lawig Diwa, along with its partners (traversing the whole length and breadth of Mindanao) and sponsors, is to be congratulated for the heroic efforts in putting up this fair.

Why the theme – Mindanao in the Liminal Space? On a billboard standing at the very center of the exhibit are these words: “We are at a threshold – a liminal space – between the immediate shock that disturbed the world and the new future that is yet to be named. Mindanao Art is right in-between phases as though to undergo another rite of passage. This year’s Mindanao Art Fair explores the theme Art in Between – Mindanao Art in Liminal Space – a recognition of where we are right now – in a space of ambiguity and disorientation as though suddenly put in the middle of a busy hallway where everything is a blur…Neither black or white, neither here or there, the liminal is to be everywhere and now here.”

True to its “liminal character,” the exhibit seems to be on tentative mood, of being in-between or in-betwix (using the archaic word of being in a state of between-ness). Befitting the use of this term for this cultural event, one needs to allow the organizers the right to decide who can join or not and what works are to be representative of where Mindanao Art is these days. No wonder, they have welcomed a wide range of established, professional, experimental and amateur artists of various ages, genders, ethnicities and artistic traditions exploring all kinds of content, form, media and materials to explore. And the art works cover a wide range: paintings (using a variety of materials from oil to acrylic, saw dust to watercolor, on canvas and cloth), sculptures, paintings-cum sculpture, fashion, assemblages, ikebana and attempts at art installations.

These “in-betweeners” have collectively accomplished what their counterparts in Luzon and the Visayas (except Metro Manila of course) have not been able to mount showing the level of collaboration among visual artists across Mindanao. Not any of the other group of artists – in theatre, music, literature, architecture, etc. – has reached this heightened level of partnership and cooperation, for it is no joke to transport both artists and their works across the island to bring them to this venue.

What has made this possible is because at the local level, artists have been organizing among themselves. One can tell by the title of these groups listed as one enters the exhibition space: Likha Caraga, Agusan Artistic Association, Pintagum, Arts Guild of Nabunturan, Capitol U Museum of Three Cultures, various arts guild from Zamboanga Sibugay to those of Iligan City and the Talaandigs of Bukidnon as well Davao’s various circles of artist-friends. One can see this reflected in the whole setting of the exhibit as booths are assigned their respective groups.

A few of these collections are a must-see, including: the Ahon Davao group (truly an outstanding achievement with the versatile watercolors led by Anthony Serafin whose Strawberries stands out), the group from Davao with Lucas Ranola and his social realist paintings of iconic Bangkerohan market, Jag Bueno’s take on Ingod with a unique use of materials that seem to combine sculpture with paintings through the use of resin and acrylic, Tanya Lee’s Tilaok that elevates the fighting cock to the mythical sarimanok and Elenita Dumlao’s Simplified Complexities that bursts with vibrant colors of her imagination. Other must-see are the 37 pieces of Talaandig soil paintings (also moving to bigger pieces now), the Tagum collection mounted on their very own mobile wooden planks to showcase works of mainly indigenous birds with their rainbow-colored feathers.

Art Fair 2019 and 2020 were understandably replete with images of the iconic symbols of Mindanao, especially the Lumad (of rituals and myths) and nature (especially the Philippine eagle) images. These do not anymore dominate the works for 2021; in fact there are only around six paintings with the eagle and a sculpture in copper wire. If there are still Lumad images and symbols, these are appropriated in a manner that is true to the exhibit’s theme – liminality. Thus images of Lumad within the social realist perspective are few and far between (understandably dominant in the Talaandig collection and a very striking in a painting of a Lumad elder wearing a face mask whose eyes mirror the deep frustrations of a vanquished people) but in this 2021 collection, they are more shown smiling, celebrating and proudly showing off their rich legacy.

The organizers highlight the Liminality theme by putting two giant murals done by Davao City’s very accomplished muralist – Jeff Bangot – at the very entrance of the exhibit. The two murals – each one measuring an entire wall – combine images of Lumad mythical heroes with cartoon and film characters, appropriation of other artists’ works and even religious motifs. Unfortunately there are no labels with titles to these works, so one is left to guess. At the left, the painting is dominated by somber, greenish colors, while red is what makes the painting at the right looking hot and passionate.

The left mural incorporates Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel rendition of Yahweh whose tip of a finger touches the tip of Magellan’s sword pointing towards a collection of imagined mythical figures, including Wonder Woman, R2-D2, Mickey Mouse, a samurai, another Marvel-type of superhero while one of the horses is straight out of Picasso’s Guernica. There is also Mona Lisa without her winsome smile as she holds a weapon for mass destruction. On the right is a montage of Lumad epic heroes or bagani (is that Agyu? Or Mangulayon? Or Lapu-lapu?), and Pinoy cartoon characters (Darna, Kenkoy), a Katipunero and even a cubist dog appropriated from Ang Kiu Kok.

There are other murals too in various spots of the exhibit. On its third rendition, Mindanao artists are starting to abandon small pieces and moving forward to doing huge murals. It is said that in countries where condominiums and hotels are sprouting, it is the demand for murals that is rising. One can easily understand why – these buildings have many blank spaces on a hundred floors – demanding to be covered by artistic pieces. Paintings are now considered good investments and these corporate firms can certainly afford the exorbitant prices they demand.

These two works alone defines the in-betwix nature of this exhibit from mythical of the imagined narratives of our indigenous ancestors to those cartooned by Walt Disney and his descendants in Hollywood, from the sublime works of art to the most mundane, from the heroic to the contemporary reality of nonchalance, to the somber memories of the past to the passionate challenges of the yet-to-be. If Jeff Bangot were the quintessential liminal artist for Mindanao, is there hope for this movement to move forward to greater heights?

But one reality that defines the liminality of this exhibit is, of course, the reality of the pandemic. Which accounts for the admittance restriction to the venue site which is on registration basis only. Which is a pity because the exhibit should be seen by as many citizens as possible. An antidote to this sad fact is that the organizers have made this exhibit be viewed online. But there is still nothing culturally nourishing apart from actually standing a feet or two from the paintings on the wall.

With the pandemic as backdrop (one can only hope that Minda Art Fair 2022 will already be liberated from this coronavirus’ tantrums), there are works showing faces wearing face masks. Included are those of: Christine Lopez (Third Dose), Michael Bacol (Quarantined and Clown Corona), Rambeth Vergara (Rembrant Self-Quarantine), John Bibal (Sheep), Jose Gumaad Jr. (Tabang), Noemi Penerante (Uyamot), Jonal Magkidong (Fake Mask) and a collection of sepia-colored paintings of Kyle Toribio (Sundo, Gukod and The Lament of Icarus) showing angels hovering over hundreds of dead bodies. Apart from showing despair, Milon Fernandez’ Fundemic shows how playful we can be even in such tragic times.

So, is it fun to view this art fair in this time of the pandemic? Most certainly and before the end of the month, I exhort the readers to find their way to the market central for this fair is such a rare event. Victor Turner, the British cultural anthropologist who popularized the discourse of liminality-communitas centered his theory on his study of rituals especially as these relate to rites of passage. Mindanao Art Fair 2021 could very well be the rite of passage for our Mindanawon visual artists as they maneuver through this threshold we are all facing in view of the rampage of this virus and its various variants.

And one hopes for both the artists and the public that this Fair leads us to a sense of communitas, where we can all converge to promote our identity as Mindanawons – as reflected in artistic works that could go down in our cultural history – that truly mirrors our soul as a people!

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is a professor at St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) in Davao City and until recently, a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. Gaspar is author of several books, including “Manobo Dreams in Arakan: A People’s Struggle to Keep Their Homeland,” which won the National Book Award for social science category in 2012, “Desperately Seeking God’s Saving Action: Yolanda Survivors’ Hope Beyond Heartbreaking Lamentations,” two books on Davao history, and “Ordinary Lives, Lived Extraordinarily – Mindanawon Profiles” launched in February 2019. He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English (A Sojourner’s Views) and the other in Binisaya (Panaw-Lantaw). Gaspar is a Datu Bago 2018 awardee, the highest honor the Davao City government bestows on its constituents.]

Source: A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: Review: Mindanao Art Fair 2021 | MindaNews