Thursday, May 25, 2017

MANARA: Ayala Foundation’s Initiatives in Mindanao

“In an increasingly digital environment, art continues to be a powerful expression of today’s realities and an important medium to convey messages of enlightenment, ac-tion, and community. We see this interactive exhibit as an opportunity to promote awareness and further educate people about the rich and inspiring culture of Minda-nao communities and the significant role the Moro culture plays in our country’s history and heritage.” ~Fernando Zobel de Ayala, Ayala Foundation Co-Chairman 

Ayala Foundation launches interactive art installation celebrating Moro Art. Two acclaimed Filipino artists came together to celebrate Moro culture through Manāra, an interactive art installation at the Ayala Museum Plaza, which officially opened on May 3, 2017.

In many cultures, there are structures that soar tot he skies, perhaps symbolizing an acknowledgement of something higher and beyond mortality. These are human endeavors to reach the heavens and become closer to a creator, or a beacons of enlightenment among a community of believers.

An internationally acclaimed painter and sculptor, Toym Imao has shown his works in the Philippines and abroad. His installation Last, Lost, Lust for Four Forgotten Episodes was the inaugural artwork featured in Ayala Museum’s OpenSpace in 2015. Toym received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of the Philippines, and a master of fine arts degree from the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. Toym is of Tausug descent. He currently teaches at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts.

Lilianna Manahan is an internationally recognized visual artist specializing in industrial design, interactive art, and installation art. A graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts, Lilianna also studied at Central Saint Martins in London, and trained under renowned designers in Europe and the Philippines, including the acclaimed Kenneth Cobonpue. Her artworks and furniture design have been showcased both here and abroad.

Manāra—the Arabic word for “minaret”—is the result of the creative collaboration be-tween internationally acclaimed sculptor and painter Toym Imao and industrial design-er and installation artist Lilianna Manahan. Structures like the minaret found surrounding mosques are the inspiration of this art installation. Manara is an Arabic word that means "lighthouse," where the term "Minaret" originates. These towers are used as a call to prayer and showcase the artistry of its builders. In this installation, the artists pay homage to the minaret, using it as a canvas to show a glimpse into Muslim Mindanao Culture.

Featuring 23 minarets and lanterns, the Manāra interactive art installation features Mo-ro textiles, wood and metal work, music, and indigenous patterns. Manāra is a project of Ayala Foundation.
 The most recognized motif connected with Muslim Mindanao culture is the Ukkil or Okir pattern. Its curvilinear form resembles elements of nature that dance along the surfaces of architectural structures, boats, furniture and art work.

The Mamandiang is traditional decoration used for celebrations. Sittie, an admired Muslim name that means "lady", is inspired by the Moro woman who weaves, sews, composes music, cooks, cleans, cares for children, serves her parents and the elderly, and supports her husband. She is equal, but not identical, to men. She transmits life through sacrifice and is the architect and sustainer of culture. She holds the innate power to design a society of authentic peace. This minaret celebrates the woman.

Whether in  Buri mats or textiles, the weaving of women in Muslim Mindanao is rich with artistry. Geometric and ornate patterns such as kabang buddi (diamond shaped designs), dawen-dawen (leaf pattern), and okir (flowing designs) are creative mastery connected to personal identity, spiritual commitment and self-awareness.

Crafted from brass, the gong is played for religious rituals, ceremonies and celebrations. It is also used as a form of communication, as in courtship. Prominent in Muslim Mindanao culture is the kulintang, a set of gongs used to play compositions embedded with meaning. Gongs are traditionally used to bring communities and people together.

 Hammered brass and wood carvings are recognizable features in Muslim Mindanao culture. Men create ornate designs on wood with pearl inlays and hammer brass into instruments, jewelry, weapons and embellishments. These age-old techniques have been passed down generations and are still practiced by craftsmen in present day.

Minaret, (Arabic: "beacon") in islamic religious architecture, the tower from which the faithful are called to prayer five times each day by a muezzin, or crier. Such a tower is always connected with a mosque and has one or more balconies or open galleries.

Employing the minaret from for the installation serves as visual metaphors for pillars or columns of the heavens.

The concept behind integrating the birdhouse motif for the installation is to allow the possibility of introducing southern architecture inspired by Islamic design sensibilities of particular cultures. This will also give the installation components a sense of "living" vices, something that is inhabited and alive.

Traditionally, minarets served as lighthouses, providing light to people and vessels that needed to find their way. Minarets, which are also important architectural features of mosques, are also where calls to prayer are made.

Similarly, the Manāra art installation hopes to shed light on the richness and diversity of Moro culture, and in the process inspire a deeper understanding of Muslim Filipinos. At the same time, the interactive art installation serves as a call for unity—for Filipinos, even though they come from diverse backgrounds, to become more open to dialogue and cooperation.
“The spirit of collaboration, mutual respect, and creativity shown in Manāra is the exact same spirit that we live by at Ayala Foundation. Through our various initiatives in education, youth leadership, sustainable livelihood, and arts and culture, we make sure that we are aligned with the needs of our stake-holders, and focus on programs that make an impact in the lives of the people we serve, which include our conglomerate, our communities, and the rest of the country.” ~Ruel Maranan, President of Ayala Foundation
For over 50 years, Ayala Foundation has been implementing community development initiatives in Mindanao. One of the foundation’s first projects was the Sumilao Cattle Research Project at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro in the 1960s. At present, the foundation has been nurturing its partnership with the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao for its youth leadership program Leadership Communities, and its education program Training Institute.

Ayala Foundation’s Initiatives in Mindanao
As the social development arm of the Ayala group, Ayala Foundation envisions communities where people are productive, creative, self-reliant, and proud to be Filipino.

Founded in 1961 as Filipinas Foundation, the foundation’s first program was, in fact, implemented in Mindanao: the Sumilao Cattle Research Project, which sought to upgrade the quality of livestock in Bukidnon.

In the 1970s the foundation also undertook several studies on Muslim Mindanao, looking at migration patterns, culture, public policy, and economic opportunities. Projects in Mindanao continued in the 1980s and 1990s, until Filipinas Foundation was renamed Ayala Foundation in 1990, signaling the Ayala group’s renewed commitment to improving lives and contributing to national development.

Ayala Foundation’s operations in Mindanao are based in Cagayan de Oro City.

At present, Ayala Foundation’s initiatives in Mindanao focus on two program areas—youth leadership and education, the bulk of which are done in partnership with the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

  • Leadership Communities, a program which strengthens the leadership potential of community-based youth as they identify urgent challenges faced by their own communities, and to conceptualize and implement projects to address these challenges. LeadCom has reached the youth in Cagayan de Oro, Davao City, and Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte. 
  • Basilan Young Leaders Program-LeadCom, where 28 young Muslim leaders underwent an immersion and exposure programs, enabling them to appreciate best practices in health, education, livelihood, peace and synergy in key cities around the country. This was done in partnership with RG Mujiv Hataman and the ARMM and the Eisenhower Fellows Association of the Philippines (EFAP). These 28 young leaders either partnered with each other or put up their own groups to implement projects. These resulted in 10 youth projects that had 628 direct beneficiaries benefited through the efforts of youth leaders; 167 youth volunteers all over Basilan were involved in the implementation of the projects
  • Bangsamoro Young Leaders Program-LeadCom was initiated to build on the success of the Basilan Young Leaders Program, this time reaching out to the entire ARMM. Ongoing is the project conceptualization phase, where 35 Bangsamoro youth are participating.
  • Training Institute is a teacher training program focusing on four major elements, namely classroom pedagogy, development of critical thinking skills, values clarification and use of technology in the classroom. Ongoing are two-year training sessions in both Lamitan and Lantawan in Basilan where 41 teachers and school heads learn new techniques in improving the classroom experience. In Cagayan de Oro, AFI has trained 64 teachers, most of whom will also become trainers for TI initiatives in other parts of Mindanao.
  • Global Filipino Schools, a partnership program between Ayala Foundation, Globe Telecom, Mitsubishi, and the City Government of Cagayan de Oro, provides internet connectivity and teacher training in the use of technology in the classroom. GFS reached 2,710 pupils and 62 teachers from Fr. Masterson Elementary School and Indahag Elementary School, both in Cagayan de Oro. 
  • The Siyapen Drug Rehabilitation Center is a partnership project with the City Government of Marawi, and hopes to provide a community-based approach to drug rehabilitation. It will be opened in 2017.

This installation represents two artists from different backgrounds - one who was nurtured by Islamic traditions and the richness of the Moro culture of Mindanao, and the other bred by Christianity and modern design. They find common ground in addressing the issue of differences and conflict, and how a confluence of ideas borne from different perspectives can lead to unity amidst diversity.

Guests are welcome to explore and interact with Manāra at the Ayala Museum Plaza from May 3 to May 30. The installation will then be brought to key sites in Visayas and Mindanao later this year. Ayala Foundation has also partnered with the City Government of Marawi for the com-munity-based Siyapen Drug Rehabilitation Center, which was started earlier this year.

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