Manobo artist celebrates the native attire in NYC exhibit

Multimedia artist Carlito Camahalan Amalla.

By Ryan Francis Regalado Reyes

‘Pagsaog’ in the Butuanon dialect of the Philippines translates to “celebration.”

Filipino multimedia artist and performer Carlito Camahalan Amalla picks this as an overarching theme for the latest overseas showcase of his visual works. The pieces are straightforward homage to the material culture, artifacts, and icons identified with his native Manobo and their domains of Agusan and Butuan—combining these elements into a fusion beaming with pride from the cultural heritage of one of the many communities forming the Philippines’ diverse ethno-linguistic tapestry.

The works consist of stylized portraits highlighting Manobo traditional attire set against flat bands of alternating colors, a pattern drawn from the simplicity of bamboo slats common in Philippine indigenous architecture. Contrasting with the minimalist backdrop is the intricate rendering of attire and ornaments that captures the complexity of local weave and beading. Minute details are painstakingly painted, where the intense investment to aesthetics and craftsmanship seen in Philippine accessories and textiles, as well as its intimate link to spirituality, folklore, and social status, vividly come to life.

‘Manoy Lolong’

Crowning each subject is a composite piece merging traditional headdresses and figures iconic to the represented locale, ranging from the region’s fauna to ethnographic objects and its most treasured artifacts. With these compositions, the artist once again attempts to bring to the global art scene his cultural roots, a connection that has always informed and inspired his practice of contemporary art.

Carlito Camahalan Amalla is an Agusanon Manobo and art professor at De La Salle-College Saint Benilde. He is a painter, sculptor, designer, puppeteer, performer, dancer, chanter, musician, ceramist and choreographer. He is a Cultural Ambassador of Goodwill in Asia, Europe, U.S., and a recipient of twice Outstanding Butuanon Awards, Gat. Apolinario Mabini Award, UN Outstanding Youth Service and University of the Philippines Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award in Community Empowerment.

He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts-Sculpture and Masters in Art History degrees (Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society USA) from La Salle. He exhibited his art in London, New York, and Wales.

The NYC exhibit will be on September 14 at the Four Points Hotel by Sheraton located at 27-05 39th Ave., Long Island City.

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