MANILA, Philippines – Artist Nikki Luna made history as the first Filipino artist to show at the historic Casa Vicens Museum in Barcelona, Spain.
Her solo exhibit Guerra opened in January. In the exhibit, Nikki traces her roots back to Rosario town in Batangas and recreates the journey that she and her eight foremothers have taken to different parts of the world in the struggle to build a life.
“Her path back to Rosario through recounting their life stories is a fraught one. It is the ground zero upon which they decided to run away from or remain in,” Adjani Arumpac wrote in Nikki’s artist statement for Guerra.
“Luna arranges their stories as she reconfigures her own narrative – in a melancholic array of a steely bloom baring the pattern of gendered invisible labor and domestic violence inflicted within and outside the home,” Arumpac wrote.
Part of the exhibit is the “Guerra Brooch,” an 18-karat gold-dipped brass brooch set inlaid with Philippine freshwater pearls from Mindanao. The brooch spells out “Guerra” – her maternal name – in Nikki’s mother’s handwriting, and displayed in a glass case, as in a jewelry store.
“A brooch was pinned on me as a child, my mom’s and grandmothers ‘anting-anting.’ Pinned on a tiny sewed bag with writings inside/inscriptions, believed to protect the wearer. This is how I was brought up, constant pinning to my clothing as a child, by my mother and aunts trying to protect me from danger, physical and spiritual,” Nikki said.
“The cherished, luxury object made from precious materials overlook the one adornment women need, the invaluable power of achieving economic self-sufficiency and actualization despite the failures of the state and institutions in delivering basic/proper needs to women,” she said.
Also part of the exhibit is “Labor Landscape,” a mounted piece of mulberry silk covered with sweat stains after being used by Nikki’s aunts who are domestic migrant workers.
“I aimed to show their labor, it is hard to visualize their ‘blood and sweat’ as they often would say this. I wanted to document the release of their moisture from physical exertion, distress, anxiety, hard work, strenuous effort without invading their routine or space. I tried capturing the many years of unseen scent, pain, fluids from labor,” Nikki said.
In “Wound Cloth,” Nikki was inspired by the “gikin,” the wound piece of cloth worn by a woman as she carries heavy loads of goods on her head for selling. For the piece, she recreated this wound cloth in porcelain – 12 in white, and three dipped in 18-karat liquid gold.
“The wound cloth was made into exquisite porcelain and gold, to emphasize the value and reminder that the women who wear these are the true unsung leaders, rulers, royals,” she said.
The piece “Steely Bloom” depicts eight bolos laser-cut from stainless steel and arranged like flower petals. Each bolo represents the eight sisters of Nikki’s mother, with whom she grew up.
“The eight Guerra sisters go beyond the blood that runs through their veins. The Guerra women are bound together by their wounds, bleeding, birthing and illness. The eight blades symbolize the many Filipino women around the world, fighting for their lives to provide, thrive, and survive for their loved ones. The gendered invisible labor of Filipino women remains and continues to oppress,” she said.
Guerra will be on view at the Casa Vicens Museum until June 26. Artist-guided tours are available on March 5, April 2, May 7, and June 4. – Rappler.com