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  • Louella Esguerra

Indigenous Art & Design


Studying Indigenous cultures & histories in Australia was one of the most fascinating and heartbreaking areas of study that left me wanting more and also hating it simultaneously. I was never meant to take up Indigenous studies but after getting a taste of the other side of history I ended up pursuing it as one of my majors. Indigenous peoples all over the world have undergone very awful and similar life changing events due to colonisation. Loss of culture, family, language, health, and land for example are the common threads that are teased out in the university setting. Amongst all this is the Indigenous arts that sits in contrast with contemporary western art. These works have multiple purposes such as re-establishing roots, keeping culture alive, a form of communication between east and west, and also as political warfare against post-colonial consequences such as the idea that colonisation is still occurring. I had the opportunity to study one of the oldest cultures in the world, Australian Aboriginal culture, and although not Indigenous to Philippines, they share commonalities that can be applied in both settings. I spent a week with a few Hermannsburg potters from Arrente Alice Springs Central Australia at the National Gallery of Victoria exhibition. I analysed their art, wrote about the context of the art from various angles, created my own paper pot, sat with the artists and learned a few words from their language. I was present so much that artist Judith Inkamala gave me my skin name Panangka. That's when I noticed the names of the artists on the walls also had Panangka as their names. This was the way the Indigenous community organised themselves in terms of who was likely your elder, brother, sister, mother, auntie, son. It's your bloodline and how you are linked in the family chain. Why is any of this important? I found that taking time to learn about another culture other than to look at the art at face value gave me a deeper connection to the people and a greater understanding of the art overall. It encouraged me to look introspectively at myself and my own thoughts and judgements. I think for the Filipino martial arts it's just as easy to overlook the deep and rich history that attaches itself to the art. People can learn functionality and concepts and not realise that they are also learning culture. Some might even say they are not interested in the cultural aspect as if it can be divorced from FMA. I'm finding the more art I create the more I learn about Philippines and its diversity. Just as I learn more movements, offence and defence, the more I learn about my culture. Studying Indigenous art & design has helped to propel me into the area of FMA and why I will continue to create art in the martial arts world. My intention is to bring to light historical and cultural areas that are hidden or overlooked. I plan on exploring Indigenous concepts that I have studied and create online videos discussing these topics. I hope that it will bring about discussion in the FMA world :)


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