The pain and glory in labor, as told by Nikki Luna

Marga Deona

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The pain and glory in labor, as told by Nikki Luna
Called LABOR, Nikki Luna's latest exhibit celebrates the triumphs and struggles of the Filipina laborer

MANILA, Philippines – The word “labor” is not a mere synonym to “work,” or “job.” Labor is hard, back-breaking work that conjures all of body, heart, and soul.

It could also be cruel in its thanklessness.

In the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ 13 Artists’ exhibit, multi-awarded visual artist Nikki Luna honors the woman as a laborer. 

Luna’s works of art invite close examination. A pineapple, built with pieces of ceramic cast on top of each other and crowned with sickles, is a symbol of the collective agony of the Filipina laborer.

“There is a parallelism between the Filipina working in pineapple plantations in the southern Philippines  with the recent plights of Kentex factory workers,” Luna says. “In working environments, the woman is seen as a cow, [with labor] milking the woman’s energy, or a kalabaw, crouching all day underneath the sun or in unimaginable unsafe conditions in a factory.”

There is also a cast of a woman’s pelvis drawn with flowers, which may stump the casual observer but depicts a kind of cruelty female laborers are subjected to.

“The female pelvic bone signifies domesticity and birth; and her spine, where hard labor is felt the most,” Luna says. “I handpainted the pelvis bone with lilies – a symbol of nurturing and birth.”

Called LABOR, Luna’s installations also celebrate the triumphs and struggles of the Filipina laborer.

“She doesn’t only survive, she thrives, breathes and live everyday with so much on her back,” Luna says. “The struggle is actually how society values her, her validity to be treated in equal footing or more. Her hardships sometimes aren’t valid enough nor valued.” –

Catch Nikki Luna’s exhibit, LABOR, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines starting September 3



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Marga Deona

Marga leads digital and product management for Rappler’s multimedia expansion. Sometimes, she writes about the intersection of technology, culture, and business, as well as the occasional sports and music features.