Palawan art gets closer to community
AT FIRST, DINGGOT CONDE-Prieto wanted to prove herself as an artist, so she put up a gallery in Puerto Princesa City.
But after realizing the growing interest of the community, the 44-year-old painter and sculptor said her purpose had changed to raising people’s awareness and appreciation of Palawan’s arts and culture.
“Art in Palawan was young then. There were a few practicing artists, about four or five, and there was no repository (for their works),” she said.
Although raised in Baguio City, Prieto chose to settle in her mother’s hometown in Puerto Princesa. “Baguio is (already) so progressive so there’s nothing left for me to do there,” she said.
Palawan, however, offered the chance to be part of change and to blaze trails in the fields of arts and culture.
In 1994, Prieto opened the Kamarikutan, a Cuyunin term for wilderness. The gallery is a huge hut made from organic materials found in her mother’s 1.2-hectare garden.
Prieto said she wanted it that way so as not to “intimidate” the community. Art galleries tend to be formal and elitist, she reasoned out.
“It (aims) to bring arts closer to the people. At least (now) there’s a place where they can see local arts, she said.
Prieto occasionally invites guest artists from Baguio, Bacolod, Manila and Davao cities to display their works in her gallery, making it also a venue for an exchange of ideas and inspiration.
In 1999, Prieto started the gallery’s arts festival, calling it the Kamarikutan Pagdiwata. Inspired by a Tagbanua thanks- giving ritual, the festival is held yearly, during full moon in April.
The six-day event attracts local arts enthusiasts and tourists, and offers workshops on painting, sculpting, film and music. “It is our way of giving thanks for the talent and wealth of our culture,” Prieto said.
A coffee shop was later set up in one portion of the gallery.
“Culture and arts is a very neglected sector. We are marginal- ized,” Prieto said. She lamented the lack of government understanding and support for the arts.
“There is still that mind-set that culture refers only to crude folk dances. You even see more priority (given) to basketball courts and beauty pageants,” she said.
Calling herself a cultural worker, Prieto said culture is so broad that it encompasses the way people think, dress or eat or their history.
“They should understand their voting population,” she said of the local leaders.
Prieto acknowledged that arts is a difficult advocacy.
“In a crowd, how many will understand or appreciate (my art)? Maybe a few and out of that few one will buy my work and take it home. What happens to my message?”
However, she believes that Kamarikutan has given her a larger playing field to promote the arts.
The art gallery is the only one existing in Palawan, and to see one or two more in the province will already be an accomplishment, she said.
“Palawan art is still at its infancy. We have not been able to define ourselves as Palawan artists nor our work as Palawan arts. (But) this for me is a very exciting period because we are pioneering and defining ourselves,” Prieto said.
THE KAMARIKUTAN art gallery in Puerto Princesa City has given a larger canvas to showcase Palawan art to people.