Palawan art gets closer to com­mu­nity

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - INQUIRERSOUTHERN LUZON - By Maricar Cinco Puerto Princesa City

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.

Arts fes­ti­val

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.

Dif­fi­cult ad­vo­cacy

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.

MARICAR P. CINCO

THE KA­MARIKU­TAN art gallery in Puerto Princesa City has given a larger can­vas to show­case Palawan art to peo­ple.

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