(SPOT.ph) More often than not, street artists—or artists of any genre, actually—create art to make a political statement or a social commentary. Take for example the ever-elusive Banksy who advocates peace and equality and criticizes capitalism through graffiti. This is also true for Filipino street artist Archie Oclos, who just unveiled a 70-meter mural dedicated to the Lumad community. Touted as the tallest mural in the Philippines, the piece titled "Bakwit" can be found on the wall of the College of Saint Benilde's School of Design and Arts along P. Ocampo Street in Malate, Manila.
Center for Campus Art director Gerry Torres, in an exchange with SPOT.ph, explained that the mural is part of "The 2018 CCP Thirteen Artist Awards at Benilde." A pioneering project between the two institutions, it allows the exhibition of the prestigious Thirteen Artists Awards outside of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. It is curated by Torres alongside Karen Flores.
"Bakwit," which is named after the Filipino word for evacuee or evacuation, portrays a young Lumad student carrying her belongings as she is being forced to leave her home and walk barefooted to the lowlands due to militarization. "Ito ay hango sa mga istorya at suliraning kinahaharap ng ating mga katutubong mag-aaral na nakakaranas ng ‘bakwit’ apat hanggang anim na beses kada taon. [...] Mula sa taas ng bundok ay maglalakad sila pababa sa kapatagan upang pansamantalang manirahan," explained Oclos in his project proposal.
He also pointed out that despite the simplicity of the image, it also shows symbolisms so that viewers can be more critical about the situation of our indigenous communities and the value of education. We can see a school bag that contains clothes instead of books, a bottle of water that the evacuee has to ration on her way down from the mountains, a sack of rice that the whole family has to share, and a few books that can hopefully compensate for the months or years that she won’t be in school. What’s most striking is the toga cap and diploma drawn with broken lines, depicting that education is nothing but a far-fetched dream for these evacuees.
The mural took 24 days to finish. At the bottom, Oclos painted a few words in the native language of the Lumad to give a voice to their unheard cries. He translated this in Tagalog in a Facebook post:
Bakit kami bababa sa aming tirahan patungo sa kalungsuran?
Bakit kami mapapalikas sa aming lupang ninuno?
Bakit wala kaming paaralan pang-kolehiyo dito sa kabundukan?
Bakit inaagaw sa amin ang aming alagang manok at baboy?
Bakit winawasak at inaagaw ang aming pananim?
Bakit may mga militar?
Bakit may kaguluhan?
Bakit wala na sina Itay at Inay?
Bakit sila pinaslang?
BAKIT kami BAKWIT?
...gusto lang naming makatapos ng pag-aaral at mabuhay.
In a post by Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, it was revealed that Oclos’ “Bakwit” is the completion of a promise he made when he visited the Lumad school in August 2018. "Dumalaw siya sa aming paaralan upang makinig sa aming mga kwento at matuto. Nagbahagi din sya ng kanyang kaalaman sa mga bata sa isinigawa nyang workshop. Nag-iwan din siya sa amin ng isang mural painting, at ang pangakong ibabahagi sa mas marami ang mga nakuha niyang aral mula sa amin. At ito na nga iyon!" they said in gratitude.
Oclos graduated with a degree in Painting from the University of the Philippines – Diliman’s College of Fine Arts, where serving the country through art is of top priority. He is a native of Catanduanes and comes from a family of farmers and fishermen.