Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Last night, I was brainstorming with Grace Nono and Su and Lia Llamado on how to support artists who privilege the importance of indigenous creativity. Su and Lia have lived in the Philippines for many years, being one of the partners of the famous Cafe by the Ruins in Baguio and friends to many artists including Santi Bose, Roberto Villanueva, Bencab and others. How do these artists keep doing what they do regardless of what else is going on, e.g. political turmoils, economic downturns, personal heartbreaks, etc.

In the Philippines, I realize that there are artist communities from the North to the South that are linked together and support each other's works and projects. In conversation I even suggested that one can do art-centered traveling to the Philippines by visiting these communities. Why not eh? But if one can't travel, how about checking out Grace Nono's latest offering?

Grace Nono's latest book, The Shared Voice, and its accompanying CD, shares the work of ten Oralists -- chanters, musicians, poets, storytellers. Grace learned how to sing the chants from these cultural geniuses and is able to re-present them to us by including Bob Aves' musical arrangements, a multi-media background and English sub-titles and, of course, Grace's own powerful and entrancing voice.

In her book, she talks about primary and secondary orality (via the work of Walter Ong). Primary orality in this case, refers to the oral traditions and the oralists featured in her book. Grace, having learned these chants from primary oralists, considers herself as a secondary oralist whose orality is being facilitated by technology. Whether primary or secondary, orality transforms our consciousness in ways that print literacy may not.

The book is a rich resource for its photographs, chant lyrics and translations into English, rigorous intellectual discussion, and a CD of the oralists.

I know that these days I'm drawn to the experience of hearing, seeing, and moving the body, of feeling the ground on the soles of my feet, on sensing the tingle of energy as I do qi gong. The vibration of these sounds and sensations in my body is a different kind of teacher. It seems to bypass the analytical brain at the moment of experience but brings it back to integrate during post-reflection.

Back to supporting artists...I have been dreaming of a babaylan conference that would bring primary babaylans, babaylan scholars and culture-bearers, to the Bay Area. "Conference" may not even be the right word for what this gathering would be. "Conference" is too cognitive and academic. It is important, of course, but I believe our cognitive faculties need to be educated by tacit knowledge that has been honed by ancient intimations of being and belonging. And that education happens through the body.

Dreaming may not be enough, others would say. Maybe so. We need pragmatists and organizers. Benefactors/funders. Institutional support. We need cultural impresarios.

In the Philippines, artists like Grace Nono, Joey Ayala, Kidlat Tahimik, Katrin de Guia, and many more (indigenous architects, musicians, weavers, chanters, storytellers), continue to create regardless of the economic constraints and the strong winds of popular and global culture. In the Bay Area and beyond, there are also many artists who endeavor to integrate indigenous elements into their creative expressions. There is a common ground being cultivated. I sense that it is being fed by a tacit knowing that hasn't yet been fully articulated. Does it need to be? Maybe. Maybe not. Nevertheless, I am writing about it now. To sow the seeds.

Comments: Post a Comment
links to this post

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?