|a labyrinth for inner peace for interfaith grassroots leaders in mindanao|
These past few days involved a lot of contemplating about the next phase of my life-work. After having my job for a peace ngo placed on hold because of a grant delay, I had lots of free time (despite being broke) to well, think and think and think. I was in a way able to plot out my intention for the backpacking art project.
Oh make that plural--- INTENTIONS!
as all these art ideas are so embedded within so many levels of my life!
I just finished an interfaith youth camp with young Muslim, Christian, and Indigenous leaders from all over the Philippines. The 3 day facilitator's training workshop was conducted by Binhi ng Kapayapaan Inc. (Seeds of Peace). I had such a wonderful time as an observer, documenter, and a participant as I also learn about their modules in preparation for their international youth camp in December where I was invited to facilitate some art activities in some rituals and reflections.
An oracle or a divination of angel messages along with Christian, Buddhist, Sufi, and Indigenous songs and dances that were part of the activities just really connected me deeply to the the intentions of my upcoming project. The in between breaks sing alongs with the young people, the artmaking processes during the workshops and the deep conversations about peace with the young leaders just truly inspired me to pursue this further.
The truth is, I am writing this as I figure out where I'm going to get my money for rent and my bills this month since there is no certainty if the project that got on hold will push through. I have a short term job that doesn't pay much but it is so meaningful. I get to help design a campaign and run activities for the public for the Mindanao Week of Peace. The Mindanao Week of Peace is an annual event that recognizes and reminds people about the conflict in Mindanao where Christians, Muslims, and Lumads (indigenous) have been trying to live in peace together for many decades despite land and political conflicts and the need for self determination. I am also preparing to head an interactive online magazine that will feature peace stories about Mindanao.I have a bit of hope since a funder is interested but this might take a lot of time to process. But all these are still in the air.
I'm writing this because I want to put out this intention to the world. I want to work for peace and the environment but I really really really want to do my art. I am again feeling this love - hate relationship with my work especially because I'm afraid again that it cannot involve my creative process.
Let me be clear on this first. I love interfaith dialogue. I have been doing this for 3 years now and still am passionate about it. I love doing communication for development.and helping causes communicate their most important messages through campaigns and promotional materials for the past 5 years. I love working on environmental education and advocating renewable energy, organic farming, biodiversity conservation, etc. Heck I have been doing coastal clean ups since I was 16 and sailing with Greenpeace when I was 23 just turned my life around!
I love art too. I am passionately in love with it. I love the way it bridges people with that invisible weave even if we are of different histories, culture, races, languages, religion, and worldviews. I love that it heals from within, how it empowers, unites, affirms, and reconnects us to the sacred, to the source of all things. I have been doing art since like forever.
So who wins? No one wins for this is not a competition. I want to do art for my own personal transformation and for causes I believe in. I have been experimenting this for 7 years now - doing volunteer work as an art teacher, facilitator, collaborator and it has given me a window to the depth and wisdom of becoming a culture bearer, a sacred artist, and a healer.
So let me talk about this upcoming journey that took 2 years to plan. It took awhile for me to express this in words as I have been growing tired of words and thinking for the past 9 months doing lots major project management work for peace.Sometimes I'm afraid that I might be developing dyslexia and ADD because of the lack of creative, right brain process. I can be a total technocrat when it comes to development work if required but it can only last for long if it is imbalanced without my art.
The intention is that for the next few months, I would be learning the indigenous wisdom and art from my own country/ethnicity side by side with a new mandala painting and drawing series inspired by different traditions.
Having been brought up with so much western art training, I used to look down on traditional art on how it is monotonous with repetition, its bland use of colors, and its seemingly restrained way of expression. My only relevant interest before was more academic in nature. I appreciated my Visual Anthropology and documentary film making class so much that I applied for a minor degree in Cultural Heritage which I didn't eventually complete with a thesis because of the heavy workload prior to graduation. The only cultural experience I truly appreciated as a university student was the night long epic chanting of elders from indigenous tribes that I was required to attend for a class.
But now all this has changed. After leaving work doing art education at a prestigious museum, my journey brought me to work on environmental education. This has then led me to learn about how the indigenous cultures have no word for environment or art for these are embedded to their way of life. And now with interfaith dialogue work, my cosmology is now becoming part of a big weave intertwined in one fabric wrapped around the history and destiny of humankind.
I have been learning how the word kapwa, or shared self/oneness, according to musical anthropologist Felipe de Leon, is integral to our psychology wherein we have this psychic unity with everything - animals, plants, the earth, the rest of humanity and how this is at the core of our inner self (ubod ng kalooban). He says, that the deeper meaning of kapwa is shared divinity.
The emphasis of the creative process, the participatory engagement of others beyond the self are qualities of many sacred and indigenous art forms. With kapwa comes the continuity of consciousness that permeates beyond the physical that manifests in many of our art and cultural forms. You can experience it in the pitching melismatic slides called hagod in our everyday language and songs; with the drone of drums and instruments in many of the rituals that elevate the brainwaves to the theta level. The dreamweavers like the T'boli of Mindanao entrust their unique design to their dreams. To many of the indigenous art forms of the world, art is a medium to connect to the divine.
As I was learning this, I felt that if I wanted to deepen my artistic process I need to dig deeper to connect to this higher realm of creativity and art.
The Artistic Journey
For the next few months, I am intending to deepen my understanding of the Baybayin, the ancient script, to study pottery and weaving up in the Cordilleras, to learn soil painting with the Talaandigs of the south, learn the okir design of the Muslim Maranaos, the banig weave of the Visayas, or whichever the gods and spirits allow the elders to teach my heart and hands.
|a collaborative mandala installation with interfaith youth from mindanao, south east asia and the pacific|
Afterwards, I embark on a backpacking journey around Asia hoping to stay with and work with grassroots interfaith communities of the United Religions Initiative and some friends I have worked with under the UNEP Eco Peace Leadership program who are working for environmental protection and conservation.
Because I have always been inspired by sacred circles - the mandala, labyrinth, Islamic geometric patterns, dreamcatchers, etc, the intention is to learn and share from local artists and wisdom holders about their sacred art forms including their mythologies, cosmology, and faith values in developing a module for interfaith dialogue, ecological healing, and perhaps maybe help develop a social enterprise initiative.
Along the way, I'd also like to continue my training and apply my knowledge and practice with transformative arts and work on arts relief with children who are affected by poverty, conflict, and environmental disasters as an Artist on Call with Buildabridge International. I feel this can be a project I can do with the 1Mandala, a global art project that inspires people around the world to co-create mandala builds and installations out of submitted portraits of oneness. As core team member, I am currently helping develop its social arm through arts relief and other means of support.
Perhaps to have more impact, I can share some of my skills in project management, social media, campaign work, and ICT for peace if needed by the communities so we can bridge their work to the rest of the world.
Another dream is to live in conscious communities who are doing sustainable farming and permaculture so I can learn how to nourish myself and the earth with a conscious lifestyle and share this learning to others I meet along the way.
Oh, so many dreams right? I feel the time of the earth is shifting and my role in it is still emerging as I take one moment at a time to manifest my unfolding through my dreams. I know and have faith this will be a beautiful journey of rediscovering myself, my capacities, as I discover new places, experience the earth through the people, beliefs, art, and the vast expanse of natural wonders I will encounter. I am grateful that I have the chance to live this life and this journey. I hope I can be worthy of these gifts that I am given and be able to share them to others. I am trusting this invisible weave that connects my spirit to the source, to all of us, to the earth, to the consciousness and spirits of all that exists visible or non visible. I intend this now as I learn to surrender with great faith to the Creator, the universe, to the spirits that can help this intention manifest.