Saturday August 18, 2018

The other side of stilt houses

STILT houses make for an unlikely subject for watercolorist Tata Sevilleno, and Banago, where these houses are built, is an unlikely inspiration for an artist who is known for her magical, whimsical, fairyland-inspired art.

Houses on stilts connote the dire straits its inhabitants are in.

Houses on stilts can make one think that these poor folks have no land to settle down on and have to make do with building their houses over water. Houses on stilts are not (horrors!) sosyal.

Informal settlers and their residences have been popular subjects for many an artist who like displaying the dark, forlorn side of life. Heavily applied oils in drab hues or the un-colorful shades of pen-and-ink artwork highlight the dreary life on the other side of the tracks.

What if we look at our houses on stilts from a lighter perspective? After all, our country is an archipelago and we treat our waterways as road networks that connect our islands. What if we look on the bright side? What if we forget sosyal and remember “traditional?”

In Stilts, Tata Sevilleno sees visual poetry.

She said, “The sun setting casted shadows, made everything a little bit more orange and the golden sun hit the roof of the houses and made them look silver. I was already in love with the visual poetry that I saw.”

Tata’s many days spent in Brunei exposed her to a culture where the stilt houses of Kampong Ayer did not connote being on the lower rungs of the social ladder.

The stilt village there has everything its residents need, and some inhabitants live and die without having set foot on land. Water taxis are available for those who have to make trips to the mainland. Sosyal!

Tata adds that “Stilts is a collection of stories of each house that I have seen. I believe each house has a character or a story to tell.”

Stilts also reflect how I see each place: happy, animated and flamboyant. Each story is written with vibrant colors in stark contrast to each other against a one-dimensional take on a landscape.”

Stilts has 17 watercolors and acrylics with titles such as “Pakilig Moments,” “Baile Under the Moon,” “Red Light Special,” and light-hearted captions such as “Purol Matam-is” and “Barangay Masinadyahon.”

Try to visit the House of Frida (2nd floor of Café Bob’s, along 21st Street) from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. from Mondays to Saturdays.

Take a look at these houses and their little residents. You’d feel like a voyeur for sure, but you will learn to appreciate our Filipino culture and see stilts houses through different eyes.

The exhibit runs until April 30. Art pieces range from P5,000 to P20,000. Nothing stilted about them.