America's 32nd president Franklin Roosevelt once said that a nation that destroys its soil destroys itself. Rightly so, because out of the soil comes the most nutritious fruits and vegetables as well as the most delicate and fairest flowers and plants. Every nations' soil is a gift that must be nurtured and treasured.
But did you know that soil can also be used for arts?
The Talaandig, an indigenous people of the Banwaon tribe residing mostly in northern and western Bukidnon, make use of soil for painting.
"We gather soil of different colors and use white glue as paint binder," Waway Saway, who comes from a family who is behind the Talaandig's school of living traditions, explained. This technique called soil painting has been practiced by their people although this has just recently been revived in their bid to bring back their living traditions.
The choice of white glue as binder is a practical alternative to the imported commercial binders, which are expensive.
With soil as the medium, their artworks are in tones of browns, reds, and grays of the soil, a soothing tone rendered into pieces of their tribe's life, beliefs, practices, and their close association with the land.
The soil painting method was introduced by Waway Saway in the Talaandig community around 1995. He trained young artists who have now mastered the art and have participated and won prizes at regional and national painting competitions bringing with them economic benefits from the sales of their art.
The Talaandig soil painting has already gone outside the country. The latest exhibit on the Talaandig soil painting was done in South Korea during the International Book Fair while the earlier one was in the Netherlands. Several Talaandig soil paintings are already available on the web and information about it can be found in the internet.
Waway and his group continue to share the art and techniques in soil painting through small workshops among children and youth in the community. Today, at least, 20 community artists are ready to spearhead in meeting the challenge of producing the Talaandig 1001 Millennium Soil Painting Project.
The Talaandig, through the Indigenous Community Artists of the Talaandig People of Bukidnon with the special participation of children and other indigenous people in Mindanao have an ongoing art project which started October 2009 and will end October of this year at the Talaandig School of Living Traditions at Tulugan, Sungko, Lantapan, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines. It is formally called the Talaandig 1001 Millenium Soil Painting Project.
The project is a one year production of more than a thousand soil paintings by the Talaandig people of Bukidnon. Paintings will revolve around five identified themes which are:
Stories of creation
Traditional peace pacts
Talaandig epic (“ulaging”) and similar epics of other tribes of Mindanao
Issues on land, culture and environment
After the production period, the paintings will be displayed at the Talaandig community, as well as the respective communities where other participants belong to. This way, soil painting is promoted as an artistic and creative medium for cultural awareness, education and preservation of indigenous cultural heritage of the Talaandig People and other tribes of Mindanao. The project also aims to make soil painting as medium for peace campaign and advocacy in Mindanao and around it.
Their official web site further says their goal includes, "developing soil painting as vehicle for cultural understanding and unity among the people in Mindanao and the whole country; and utilizing soil painting as center for the development of a sustainable economic enterprise of the Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao."
They welcome support but adopts this principle, which we at Cultureight Travel like so much: "The Talaandig 1001 Millennium Soil Painting Project is a self determination project. Its implementation is based on the principle of self governance and self reliance. Sponsorship of the project must be free from any form of control and compulsory requirements that will alter the peoples self determination and cultural sovereignty."
Their stand regarding accepting help reminds us of bestselling book Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo who radically claimed that foreign aid kills Africa. She further suggests on ways how Africa can form an exit strategy to end its dependence on foreign aid and argues for more innovative ways to finance development including trade with China, accessing the capital markets, and microfinance.
If you are interested to offer voluntary support, please do so by:
Providing materials needed for soil painting (i.e., cloth canvass, paint brushes, gallons of white glue, painting frames, etc.)
Conducting series of soil painting workshops for children
Rallying participation of other indigenous artists in Mindanao
Constructing bamboo shelters for the paintings
Give a monthly stipend of at least Php 1,500 for the participating artists