IN AN attempt to showcase traditional Muslim elements through contemporary artworks, industrial designer and installation artist Lilianna Manahan and multi-media artist Toym Imao came up with Manara, an interactive art installation featuring Muslim Mindanao Culture.
The word mañara is the Arabic word for minarets. As per tradition, minarets served as lighthouses that provide light to people and vessels that needed to find their way especially during nighttime. Aside from that, minarets are also important architectural features of mosques where calls to prayer are made.
After being exhibited in Ayala Museum Plaza in Manila from May 3 to June 9, the art installation is now propped up in Abreeza Ayala Malls, Davao City ground floor hallway near Fully Booked from August 9 to September 8 coinciding with the Kadayawan Festival.
The art installation features 23 minarets and lanterns that features Moro textiles, wood and metal work, music, and indigenous patterns including that of Vinta, Ukkil (or Okir), Gongs, Weaving, and Sittie.
In Islamic religious architecture, minaret is more than the lighthouse being the guide of people and vessels. It is also where the muezzin, or the crier, calls the faithful for a prayer five times a day. It is also a visual symbol for pillars of the heavens.
The five towers at the centerpiece represent the five pillars of Islam: (1) Faith, declaring trust that there is only one God, Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger, (2) Prayer, which are five for them for different times of the day: Fajr (dawn), Dhuhr (noon), Asr (afternoon), Maghrib (evening), and Isha (night), (3) Charity wherein alms-giving is practiced based on accumulated wealth, (4) Fasting. Muslims are to abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk and are to be mindful of other sins, and finally (5) Pilgrimage, specifically Hajj which occurs during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah. This is a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.
Flying up towards and among the towers is a flock of sarimanok, mythical birds from Maranao folklore that are believed to be messengers to the heavens.
Imao, himself, graced the official launching of the art installation last August 9 and talked of how their metals and other materials used were actually sourced out from Marawi City marketplace a few weeks before the siege.
“We thought of doing contemporary expression of the Muslim art. We thought of creating towers…What we have now is the remnant of the place that is not there anymore. It has gained much more importance,” he said.
He also told the tale of a sarimanok who served as a messenger and a deliverer of love letters for a prince in the heavens and a princess on land. One night, the sarimanok got lost on its way because of a great storm. The king helped by sending a rainbow where the sarimanok can slide and land safely on land. The moment he landed, he acquired the colors of the rainbow causing his feathers to be as colorful as it is believed to be now.
With his father a Muslim and his mother a Christian, Imao shared how he grew up in a household that respects two faiths and accentuating the commonalities instead of defining the differences.
Manara, more than the showcase of the Mindanao Muslim art, is also an attempt for non-Muslim to understand the Muslim culture the way the two artists from different backgrounds reveal them. The two artists found common grounds in addressing the issues concerning differences and conflict and through this, discovered unity amongst differences instead of diversity.
Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on August 13, 2017.
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