Studio > Markings of Remembrance

Markings of Remembrance is a collaboration between myself and April Knauber that engages a form of Filipino storytelling through abstract patterns found in ancestral body art, or tatak (among many other names). By engaging stateside practitioners, ancestral objects, colonial-era manuscripts and contemporary texts, our ultimate goal is to create space for collective remembrance and understanding of an artform nearly lost to hundreds of years of religious and political subjugation of the indigenous peoples of the islands now known as the Philippines. Prior to the creation of new sculptural and video works, the project will consist of the formation of a working group of Filipinos interested in researching their lineage and sharing their findings and personal experiences, continuing a long tradition of cultivating collective memory through oral history, which will inform a tailored curriculum through which the group will learn about the archetypal symbols central to various Filipino tattoo traditions.

Tattoos in the Philippines are a sacred art form with thousands of years of history behind them. Like several Austronesian cultures, tattooing was so widely practiced within these lands that when Spanish colonizers arrived, indigenous communities throughout the Visayas were called "Los Pintados," or the painted people. These markings were described as intricate patterns rich with symbolic references to land, community, family, and martial accomplishments. Today, however, even with the growing acceptance of body art, this artform is commonly considered to be taboo due, in part, to centuries of colonial indoctrination.
Markings of Remembrance seeks to address this taboo by refamiliarizing ourselves and others within our community with our ancestral practices, the symbols through which our stories are told, the plants, animals, and objects those symbols represent, and the ways in which these patterns have lived on through various forms of cultural production. This project will begin with the formation of a cohort of Filipino peers. Together, we will research and share our individual histories, the islands from which our families migrated, the languages spoken within our families, and the roles our family members held within their communities. This first phase will shape the work we do moving forward, as this information will point to the various tattoo traditions present within the group. The second phase will focus on these traditions and the symbols and patterns contained therein. Taking what we’ve learned from one another in the first phase, we will learn about the symbols, patterns and tattoo structures of the specific cultures represented. The symbols within these patterns contain a wealth of natural references, and we’ll be contextualizing this work with information and folklore about the various plants, animals, and celestial bodies present within each cultural canon. Upon completion of the workshop, each participant will have done the cultural work necessary to approach a Filipino tattoo practitioner and commission their own piece.