Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Reading The Shared Voice by Grace Nono...

draws me deeper into the indigenous knowledge systems and practices (IKSP) of Filipinos. This 15-year research project on the oralist traditions in the Philippines is only a taste, a sip from the deep well where these spring from! In this book, Grace was able to feature ten oralists - many of whom are also shamans/babaylan/healers like Mendung Sabal, who received her gift of chanting, story-telling, healing, and weaving directly from her abyans/spirit guides. Another is Evelyn Rivera Mirano, a US-born Fil Am who grew up in the Philippines, was trained in classical European musical traditions and was later drawn to research and study Filipino oral traditions. Florencia Havana is a christianized Manobo who valorize and include the Manobo oral traditions in the Methodist church that she and her husband pastor. What a great collection and if this is only a taste, I think of the depth and breadth of that spring. How it must be waiting to feed us.

What Grace Nono has accomplished in this compilation includes: academic theories and concepts about primary and secondary orality; the process of doing this kind of research as a lifelong commitment, perhaps even a calling by the spirits; the need to keep the traditions alive and sustained by the communities of origin as well as by those of us outside such communities; the healing power of being rooted in the indigenous and all that invokes in the cells of our bodies and memories.

As I write this, I am listening to Translating the Gongs by Grace' musical collaborator, Bob Aves... and before this, to Kulintronica by San Francisco-based Ron Quesada (who also helped facilitate Grace' recent performance in SF). I hear the kulintang, gongs, drums, electric guitar, and Grace's voice and I think about the re-imagination of indigenous traditions by contemporary artists in the homeland and in the diaspora.

Whereas I used to labor in my intellect about the politics of appropriation, I realize that I'm doing so less and less. Fed by a growing tacit knowing and trust in the power of these IKSP to move me beyond the linearity of intellectual predispositions -- is a beautiful feeling. If I can keep the monkey brain from being imprisoned by its own narrowness, who knows what is next?

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