Last year, CANVAS mounted the Tumba-Tumba Children’s Museum of Philippine Art Proof-of-Concept Show to provide snippets and elements of what we thought a children’s museum of Philippine art should be: fun, interactive, memorable, and filled with stories and triggers for the imagination.
TUMBA-TUMBA: Words and Numbers is a continuation of this effort to learn and document lessons that can help refine the vision for such a museum, to which the CANVAS is committed and are taking serious steps to bring to fruition.
CANVAS is grateful to the artists and writers who are part of this exhibition; the Panta Rhea Foundation for its long and generous support; and the UP Vargas Museum for granting us the space and freedom to continue pursuing this dream.
Marcel Antonio’s Space
“People often ask me how and why I became a writer.”
So begins multi-awarded writer Butch Dalisay’s poetic reflection, originally delivered in 2017 at TEDxDiliman – and now complemented by the uniquely lyrical art of Marcel Antonio – on reading, writing, language, literature, and the enduring power of words.
Ioannis Sicuya’s Space
Mahilig mangolekta ng iba’t ibang bagay si Lola Nil. Bawat kwarto ng kanyang punso ay puno ng sari-sari niyang mga koleksyon. Ngunit nawawala ang pinakapaborito niyang bagay: isang maliit na puting kahong gawa sa yero. Nasaan na kaya ito?
Sa kanyang unang aklat, iniimbitahan ni Ioannis Sicuya ang mga batang maghanap at magbilang. Gumagamit siya ng iba’t ibang materyales, lalo na ng epoxy at kahoy sa paggawa niya ng mga eskultural niyang mga piyesa. Sinasalamin ng kanyang mga obra ang kanyang interes sa synthetic textures na nagpapakita ng pagkasira at pagyabong.
Renz Baluyot’s Silent Witnesses
(Parental Guidance is Strongly Recommended)
It has been more than 30 years since the fall of the Marcos regime. Time can dull memory, rendering it unreliable. Was it truly that bad? Did it even really happen? As time passes, revising history becomes easier, and the chances of history repeating itself is ever greater.
For this project, we read dozens of affidavits by survivors of atrocities committed by the Marcos regime, and then distilled them into three-sentence stories. The experience was traumatic and jarring, but the result was, to us, surprisingly meditative and timely.
So retelling these tales was never a question. They remind us of a shameful and horrific past that can quite easily happen again, if we forget.
Still, one of our concerns was the possibility of the show being seen, or the book being read, without context, especially by a child. How will he or she react?
We asked some survivors of martial law abuse to read these stories, and they too, more or less unanimously, shared the same sentiments – it is important to tell these stories, but the effect can be traumatizing, and without the context or guidance, all the readers will be left with are frightening images.
Less clear was what to do. Some suggested that we include longer narratives to explain each story. Others surmised that we can trust the child to come up with his or her own reflections. Children are exposed to a lot of horror and violence these days, one survivor told us – on the internet, on TV, in the movies, in practically all media. We can try to shield especially the very young, but, while context is important and ideal, it simply cannot always be present.
In the end, we decided, for better or worse, to keep everything only to the barest essentials – the stories themselves, and Renz Baluyot’s haunting images.
We trust that visiting parents and teachers can and will provide context and guidance. We hope they can use the show and the book as starting points for meaningful conversations over what is a very sensitive topic, as well as tools for imparting empathy and a deeper appreciation of history.
We want to emphasize too – all these stories were based on experiences of survivors. Despite the odds, they survived to tell these tales. This project then is also a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit.
Memory is an underrated but extremely important thing. We remember and learn from the past, because we want our children to lead better lives than us.