As we weave poetic images or inspired text examining the human condition, we insufferably hope that powers beyond ourselves, be they within halls of legislature, or boardrooms of corporations would look out at what art is trying to say.
In a six-article compilation of writings on the art of and experiences with Imelda Cajipe Endaya, the editor of the book “Alter/(n)ations: The Art of Imelda Cajipe Endaya”, Flaudette May Datuin, highlights the faith of the artist/curator/cultural worker in art — that it has “something to say [which] can change what people think and feel about themselves and in the world, and hopefully change that world, not into something else, but into a place where they can live humanly and humanely.”
The six articles were written through the eyes of different women from different aspects of Cajipe Endaya’s life — her colleagues in her different endeavors in art, her sister in the women artist collective they founded, her daughter, and others who believe in her and her art — all of which display different images of a woman, intertwined as the person who Cajipe Endaya is.
Art-Making for Feminism and Social Realism
Alice Guillermo, a Professor Emeritus at the College of Arts and Letters in the University of the Philippines, surveyed the changes in the artistic style of Cajipe Endaya — from printmaking, to collages, to her paintings (oil then acrylic), and to other forms of art. The prominent elements of her style include the use of fabrics; indigenous and personal materials, such as sawali window panels; and other materials usually associated with women — such as embroideries, crocheted laces, household tools such as brooms and the like. These elements symbolize Cajipe Endaya’s efforts to break gender inequality and to imply social-realistic ideas. Guillermo further explained how Cajipe Endaya’s style and materials communicated her convictions:
The artist drew inspiration from the fall of the [Marcos] dictatorship and felt invigorated by the general climate of optimism in the early years of the Aquino government. A key painting… Sa Lupang Golgota (In the Land of Golgotha) (1984) which shows a group mostly of women in expressions of utter consternation and alarm at the bloodied figure of Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., the opposition senator, who seems to have fallen from the skies (he was shot while going down an airplane).
[The window] implies a perspective or point of view since a window suggests a consciousness looking out from within the shadowy enclosure of a dwelling and scanning the world… Women traditionally confined to domestic roles acquire new interests and concerns, seek participation in decision-making.
The artist showed a more active engagement in traditional forms associated with women, such as weaving, quilting, applique, and embroidery, which, long relegated to the marginalized status of “craft,” now claim the full status of art. Indeed, one of the important gains of women’s art today has been to demolish the ironclad academic distinctions between “high art,” long the enclave of male artists, for the contemplation and edification of privileged viewers, and “low art” or women’s work associated with domestic ornamentation and familiar use.
On 2005, Cajipe Endaya and her husband migrated to the United States, as result of her mother’s persistent petitions. Cherry Quizon‘s article is about the artist’s life in a place away from the country she was fighting for and chose to continue to fight for. In this migration and uprooting, she has experienced being closer to the lives lived by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) abroad, for whom she made an installation for prior her migration. Apinan Poshyanando, the curator of the exhibition, wrote:
The installation is Cajipe Endaya’s prayer that one day her country need not export Filipinas as domestic workers [i.e. DH]. Although she realized that art may not solve problems, she hopes it can spur inspiration or outrage for the women of the Third World.
Focusing on the artist’s mixed media sculptures and installations, Neferti Tadiar explains as to how these artworks provide good points for critical discussion on the relevant topics that depict human dignity, specifically of women. She specifically picked “Ang Asawa ay DH” (The Wife is a DH), 1995 and “Anghel ng Teknolohiya” (Angel of Technology), 1997 (artwork in the book cover) as figurative analogies for these women in dehumanizing settings, commodified in another nation, like “natural resources of the country”. Tadiar concluded:
The angels of technology, Filipina women witness the catastrophe of capitalist progress in the very intimate, domestic spaces of their own making. Unlike the angel of history, however, they do not wait for redemption from a messiah who has yet to arrive. For they are potentially their own redeemers, their everyday work of life-making, the very possibility of freedom and redemption.
Sisterhood and Solidarity
Brenda Fajardo, a Professor Emeritus at the College of Arts and Letters in the University of the Philippines, narrated the beginnings and the endeavors of the women artist collective she and Cajipe Endaya founded, Kasibulan. As per her, the collective is the fruit of a closely-knitted personal relationship — a sisterhood, that resulted to solidarity towards a single goal for a better world.
According to Cajipe Endaya, the vision of Kasibulan is:
To change the nature of art itself: constantly transforming culture in effective and new ways where the previously suppressed perspective of women in these largely masculine histories of republics, factors of production, and unfinished revolutions, will be made visible. For example, understanding that gender is a social construct rather than a natural given is one triumph of feminism. The extensive validation today of craft as art, and the invalidation of the cult of genius, originality an greatness in world art are another.
Kasibulan is only one of the other channels Cajipe Endaya has used to push through with her ideals and convictions. Others include the projects and efforts she led as a cultural worker and manager — the main subject of the article of Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez. Legaspi-Ramirez further explains:
Cajipe Endaya’s work as artist-organizer-cultural manager tacitly takes off from the notion of the artist as citizen rather than recluse.
No Artiste Ego, Only A Natural Sense of Living Art
In her nostalgic article, Indira Endaya, Cajipe Endaya’s daughter, thought that having an artist as a mother should not differ that much from having a dentist or a housewife mother — a sentiment which highlights Cajipe Endaya’s natural instinct in doing art and her humility beyond all the achievements she has achieved. Her daughter further shares:
The life of any artist could be easily romanticized by words but mother was never self-conscious about being an “artiste” and never had airs or a sense of entitlement after achieving so much.
Upon reading the book, one may not only appreciate Cajipe-Endaya’s art, but also the person who she is — a woman full of ceaseless hope, faith and passion, which further insists that her contribution to the art and cultural scene is basically her life.
Alter/(n)ations: The Art of Imelda Cajipe Endaya is available in the University of the Philippines Press and National Bookstore branches nationwide (until supplies last).