SiKuna: The rekindling of Filipino art

The sky was gray, the clouds thick, and the air heavy with suspended silence. At the entrance, goers were huddled in a circle carrying all sorts of percussion instruments—empty water gallons, bamboo, cow bells, tambourines, and wooden sticks. A man steps to the center and raises his cow bell and thin wooden stick to begin a simple beat. He builds a rhythm. The people join him, creating layers of sound made by beating, sliding, chiming, and shaking, until what was previously heavy silence is transformed into a unified symphony. Each individual is then given the chance to take part in leading the beat, to play conductor in the improvised elemental orchestra. Thus begins SiKuna, which comes from the root words Sining, which means art, and Kuna, which means cradle.

“It’s not actually a performance, it’s more of the participants,” explains Andy Pinto, the ringleader of this drum circle. “It’s just a promotion of having fun. It’s appreciating the gift of rhythm.” As the facilitator of this frenzied yet rhythmic percussional melody, he provides the participants something they need: a place of expression and creativity. “This is actually in line [of what] SiKuna stands [for] in this festival: Creative play.”

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As a bystander, the urgency and volatility of the musical display is entrancing, almost like watching someone strike a match or a lighter in the presence of tinder. But the actuality of it leaves little weight for the metaphor as SiKuna proffers an important question in its attempt to rekindle the fire of Filipino art and create a hearth for our burgeoning cultural identity: What is art?

Tending the fire of collaboration

Micah Pinto is one of the founders of Para Sa Sining, the production company responsible for Katha, an event held to showcase collaborative works produced from different artists of two art forms combined. The event was founded to gather artists and enthusiasts alike to foster a strong creative community, but the limitations in the number of art forms, as well as the small venue, proved difficult against the overwhelming number of artists that had seemed to materialize.

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Micah and her team decided just August of last year to create an arts festival with greater breadth, as they aimed to showcase all the seven art forms, namely, the visual arts, literature, music, theater, architecture, dance, and film. It would be filled, not just with interactive performances, but with open and staged routines as well. “We wanted to make the audience feel like they were part of the program kaya we also allowed them to play the percussions, and also allowed [them] to learn the dances,” she shares.

But more than just audience participation, various artists were allowed to discuss their creative processes, which also was the crux of the festival. “We wanted to develop an audience capable of thinking and understanding the art form that is presented to them and not just merely accepting them all the time… With that knowledge and appreciation, mawawala yung notion between [what is] beautiful art and what is not,” Pinto remarks. Art is a contrast process of educating oneself of its background and roots—true appreciation doesn’t come by force, but creeps in like a secret and slow propaganda to the soul.

At the same time, art requires people working together towards accomplishing their unequivocal passions. Pinto adds, “We cross genres, we create awareness na oo nga, hindi lang naman ako mag isa when creating. The beauty of collaboration is when you are able to create something together, may naibibigay kang vision, and the other also does, and then you both create something greater than you expected.”

The creative paradox

SiKuna, at a glance, resembled a mix of contemporary and traditional. The greenhouse-like facade, with its sparkling granite flooring and full view of a modern metropolis, had several banig spread along the grounds, where vendors of all sorts sold their wares. It was much like an old bazaar set in a modern marketplace.

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An array of hand-made merchandise was strewn in this makeshift modern market, everything from leather wallets and cases to necklaces and adornments. Paintings and all sorts of artwork were also sold. Both hand-painted and graphic arts were being bartered, some still wet with fresh paint on their canvases and others still in the midst of creation. Despite the variety of wares being peddled, each piece exemplified the creativity and artistry of the makers in whatever form they saw fit, may it have been hand-crafted notebooks or commissioned coffee stain portraits of attendees. They were not merely selling products. They were selling their passion, their creativity, their art.

It was a nexus of different art works, stemming from different lives. “Art is very broad, that comes with the period you’re in. Iba-iba tayo, iba-iba ginagawa natin. If you have this craving, this love for something, is it not greater to experience the whole of it, hindi lang yung art as of the moment, but the totality of it?” Pinto reassures. Art is life—this is the mantra that she repeats over and over again. Indeed, it is. Before these individuals became artists, before they ever picked up their brushes, or played a single note, they were regular people who needed to live. Artists merely amplify the glories and hardship of living.

A couple sits side by side as they set-up their works of art on one of the banigs. The boy lays out his film photographs of places and people, while his lover displays her graphic illustrations of bloody girls wearing ironic smiles.

Two friends—one was crouched making customized notebooks to get through college and make it as a painter, while the other engaged with those around her interested in her partner’s art.

Two women of different age who were striving to start a home-grown bag business. One was a young woman giving her passion for travelling material form, the other an old seamstress with her hands giving it shape and substance.

All these stories have intertwined or run parallel among each other in some way. However, in addition to being different people with equally unique stories, Pinto believes that in order to fully appreciate our own art, it’s necessary to go to back our ethnic roots. “Buong pagkatao mo is a mixture of beliefs coming from different parts of the world, but you being a Filipino is actually you acknowledging the fact that you are from the Philippines and you have a this connection with other Filipinos,” she declares.

Dare to create

The event starts by posing a question, but doesn’t reserve the ending for one definite answer. “…As long as it is true and the intentions are pure, you should not fear to create something. You are given these hands, ears, eyes to create something,” Pinto says. But tackling the question itself proves to be an uplifting, already an insurrection from the primal fear that limits us to create.

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Masdan ang pag-ibig na dumadaloy sa kamay ng lumikha (Observe the love that flows through the hands of the artist),” is the statement printed on the wall just outside the venue. Every symphony, picture, poetic line exhales this message of love. Love of all forms and types, burning from the hearth—bright red and orange in its intensity.

Anthony John Tang

By Anthony John Tang

Krizzia Asis

By Krizzia Asis

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