What it Means to be a Filipino Artist in the Diaspora
Art in the Diaspora
The Filipino diaspora is one of the largest, diasporas in the world. Anywhere in the world, Filipinos adapt to their environment – blurring borders and absorbing cultures; and ultimately, becoming transnational citizens.
Last 30 August 2023, Asia Society Philippines and Manila House invited Xyza Cruz Bacani and Wawi Navarroza, both Filipino artists and transnational citizens, to share their stories and own experiences through their works in 'Art in the Diaspora'.
More Filipinos continue to look for opportunities abroad with a majority of the migration due to economic factors and conditions. And, a prevailing and praised narrative for OFWs is their resilience. Sharing her own experience as a migrant worker, Xyza says, “A lot of people abuse the word [resilient]. When we say that migrant workers should be resilient, when we call them resilient, we’re burying them… We should change our views on migration. Change the narrative that it’s something ‘pathetic’; rather [it’s] courageous. It takes bravery to leave. We should celebrate these people.” She also recounts owing her life as an artist today to the same bravery of her mother. Xyza and Wawi acknowledge the contributions of their past to their identity today whilst iterating that romanticizing reliance, struggles, and hardships - whether as artists or individuals, is unnecessary.
As celebrated artists globally, both share their struggles with the ‘curse of representation’ – of having to deal with feelings of the constant responsibility to educate people on their Filipino roots and the nation. Wawi mentions, “As artists, you are de facto ambassadors of where you come from. So they expect your works to represent [being] Filipino.” As their audiences look for what is Filipino in their artworks, both artists say that these are Filipino and that Filipino-ness is not lost due to a variance of styles. In arts and for artists, there is no restricted form to which their identity must definitively be expressed as, and Wawi adds, “Identity is plural we do not have to adhere to one.”
Towards the future, both hope for an empowered local artist and Filipino community, a changing of narratives, and a looking forward to the ever-evolving culture and identity of Filipinos.
What do we really owe our motherland? Asia Society in partnership with Manila House, held a forum where internationally renowned Filipina artists Wawi Navarroza and Xyza Cruz Bacani ponder on the struggles and joys of being an artist abroad.