Mindanaoan cultural artists speak peace in Obrang Kalinaw virtual show

Mindanaoan cultural artists brought the week of peace celebration more vibrance by showcasing their crafts through an online show dubbed as “Obrang Kalinaw (Peace): The Mindanaoan Cultural Artists as Peace Influencers”, on November 30, 2020. The virtual event was a collaborative effort by the regional messaging hubs of the OURmindaNOW that featured artists Janaria Magancong and Badria Harron Utto from Sarangani Province, Jal Mustari of the Aretes Style from Marawi City and Maika Hamja from the Yakan village in Zamboanga City. 

According to Dr. Christine Yambao, ZamPenBaSulTa Messaging Hub Technical Working Group member and the event’s lead organizer from Western Mindanao State University-Malangas, cultural artists speak about peace uniquely through their crafts, and the online show is the best space to express appreciation on the role they play as peace influencers in the community. 

The first artist featured was Janaria Magancong, Balungis Women Association President and an Inaul malong weaver from Malapatan, Sarangani, who first learned the skill of weaving when she was 19 years old. Inaul, which means ‘woven’ in Maguindanao, is a hand-woven tapestry with geometric designs. As a status symbol, it is reversed as an object of “Bara- Bangsa” which means dignity. 

“The ‘malong’ is a symbol of peace and unity. This means that even if we have different tribes and cultures, the community is still peaceful,” Janaria shared.

The women of Balungis continue the long tradition of cloth artistry by also teaching the art of weaving to their children to preserve this Moro tradition. The association benefited programs from the government that also helped sustain their livelihoods and supported their children’s education. 

SOX Messaging Hub introduced another skilled artist from Pinol, Sarangani Province named Badria Harron Utto, who has her own share of grief brought by the injustices from the past that some Moro communities had experienced. At 62, she is ‘a model to those whose craftsmanship extends beyond the cost of living by transforming talent into a medium to prophesize peace’- the art of mat weaving.

“Now things are better because a lot of help has come our way. We also want our children to learn these things because in the end if they already know how to do it, they already have a livelihood,” Badria said as she also recalled how she learned mat weaving from her grandmother.

Obrang Kalinaw also featured another artist and a young entrepreneur from Marawi City, Jal Mustari. He founded the youth-led and start-up brand called Aretes Style that uses the iconic Maranao hand-woven fabric called ‘langkit’ in various fashion accessories. Aretes Style provides alternative livelihood to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Marawi who were affected by the siege. Its vision is to craft hope and peace while preserving the M’ranaw weave called “langkit”.

“As M’ranaws, we have experienced stereotypes and discrimination as an effect of the siege. I felt the need to stand up against it and break the stigma through this form of art that represents the beauty of our culture, to let the world know that we are a community that works for peace,” Jal shared. The start-up has provided additional livelihood to local weavers in Marawi and is becoming popular outside Mindanao. 

In Zamboanga City, a Yakan village continues their tradition of ‘tennun’, a Yakan term for ‘weaving clothes’ of which Maika Hamja started doing when she was seven years old. A young Maika demonstrated the Yakan weaving at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in 1987, and also mounted another demonstration at the National Museum. In the video, Maika showed the audience the different patterns, designs and meanings of the traditional Yakan weaving.

“Weaving is in our blood and mastering this form of art is in our culture. It is a treasure that we can pass on to our children,” Maika expressed. Together with the other weavers in the village, Maika hopes that the younger generation will also work hard to preserve this art of weaving. 

The one-hour show gathered the audience via Facebook live who expressed their appreciation to fellow Mindanaoans who took the path of becoming peace influencers by expressing it through arts and crafts. Adding colors to the show were special performances by singer Bayang Barrios together with the Naliyagan Band, and Raydan Tangwayan of the Kabpapagariya Ensemble. Datu Raid Salik, OURmindaNOW Tech Camp Batch 2 alumnus from the Kutawato Messaging Hub hosted the Obrang Kalinaw. 

In a closing statement delivered by EAI Philippines Country Director Exan Sharief, he said, “As we witness the diverse cultural identities in Mindanao, we also see similarities shared between these cultural communities. And there, we want to strengthen these similarities instead of focusing on the differences. This is the essence of unity in diversity.” Sharief further added that the Obrang Kalinaw is another platform that promotes dialogue towards harmony- this year’s theme of the Mindanao Week of Peace. 

The online event was presented by member institutions of the regional messaging hubs and its partner organizations: Student Action Force-Malangas Chapter, Department of Information, Communication and Technology (DICT) Mindanao Cluster 1, Sulong Kapayapaan, Mindanao State University-General Santos City’s Institute for Peace and Development in Mindanao (IPDM), SOX Messaging Hub, ZamPenBaSulTa Messaging Hub, Ranaw Messaging Hub and Kutawato Messaging Hub. 

Watch Obrang Kalinaw here: https://www.facebook.com/EqualAccessPH/videos/946985679165184

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