Golden Inheritance

THAT’S the title of his upcoming one-man exhibit and he intends to draw attention to Mindanao music and instruments in the process.

Golden Inheritance by artist, interior designer, curator, theater director, choreographer, cultural worker, researcher and educator (yes, he’s all that) Leonardo Rey “Bing” S. Cariño describes his fourth one-man exhibit that will open on April 26 until May 22 at the Museo Dabawenyo as the "Indigenous Madonnas".

It is a series of huge format paintings that feature the tri-people of South Cotabato-Sultan Kudarat-Sarangani-General Santos Region -- the Moros, Lumads (indigenous peoples), and Christian settlers.

Each painting features a musical instrument of the tribe in the painting and will be exhibited along with the real instrument, thus making it not just an art exhibit but also ethnographic exhibition of Mindanao music.

He would have wanted to paint more and include more musical instruments according to the tribe represented, but availability of the musical instrument was a limiting factor. He only had his collections and some of his friends' to show along with the paintings.

“One peculiar thing about the arts in tribal communities is that unlike western art -- music in particular, where music is for entertainment -- in most Mindanao music the use of the instrument is for ritual and for everyday life and entertainment,” Cariño told SunStar.

“There are instruments exclusively for rituals but the ones featured in the exhibit are more general ones. I think I was more concerned of representation than function in my selection of instruments.”

In so doing, he said, a curatorial narrative that emerged from this body of works is that “aside from the concerns for conservation is how music connects the tribes with some obvious commonalities in terms of (at least) the physical architecture of some instruments.”

The artist chose this time to exhibit because it's National Heritage Month and there is no better time to show artworks about indigenous peoples heritage than on heritage month.

He is curating his own show although he consulted with German ethnomusicologist Hans Brandeis who has specialized in Philippine music.
Brandeis is writing the exhibit notes and will be having an essays on the lives and deaths of Mindanao music.

“All the instruments in the exhibit are from Mindanao cultural communities,” he said. Many are still being used to play their music, one in particular is already no longer played nor made -- the Bukidnon piyapi. A few others are on the brink of being forgotten.

In Brandeis' exhibit notes, he wrote:

“In the 1980s, I traveled around Bukidnon province visiting more than 20 villages and researching on the traditional music of the Binukid speaking people, the Bukidnon, Higaonon, Talaandig and Banwaon. There was not a single place that I visited where I could still find the complete set of traditional rituals, song types, dances or musical instruments. I was only able to find fragments of past cultural glory that I had to join together, like in a patchwork, to reconstruct the traditional musical culture that was about to fade away…”

Carino admits that the paintings are but representations of Mindanao culture and dances conceived at first for the “sheer pleasure of painting them.”

“But representing the tribes presenting their ‘image’ whether intended or by accident creates discussions and could bring to the conversations their plight,” he added, thus the pleasure of creating images based on what one has studied about the tribes' culture and practices brings the narrative to how these indigenous ways are not only less known but are sometimes not given the level of pride these deserve.

“Most of the times it takes an outsider to bring out pride of place and culture especially that many from the cultural communities still regard their culture inferior,” he said.

Cariño is one of the prime movers of the creative industries in General Santos City and started the Annual Teatro Ambahanon Summer Dance Workshop (TASDW), a training ground for upstart and pre-professional dance-theater artists.

Having earned his Bachelor in Interior Design from the University of the Philippines in Mindanao, he established his practice in General Santos City during which he also picked up the brush.

He was elected Executive Committee member of the National Committee on Visual Arts NCVA of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in the early 2000s.

His artistic streak brought him to performing arts that saw him organize the Teatro Ambahanon (Hibiscus Prize for Excellence winner of China ASEAN Theater Week) of Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Colleges in General Santos City where he also works as Cultural Development coordinator.

He became more engrossed with visual arts when he joined the Philippine Women's College of Davao Helena Benitez School of Arts and Design as chairman of PWC’s Interior Design Program.

Drop by at Museo Dabawenyo from April 26 to May 22 and touch base with Mindanao's indigenous roots.
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