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Art and the Church

Art is a powerful tool to convey ideas. Both the church and the state utilised it to persuade people. From pre-colonial jars to renaissance paintings, art played a significant role in shaping the worldview of the people. For the second part of Muni-muni sa Museo, the lecture and forum series tackled perspectives on art and world history.

Museo De La Salle, in partnership with Artletics, held the second leg of Muni-muni sa Museo on November 17, 2017, at Luis Aguado Viewing Room in De La Salle University- Dasmarinas. The second part of the series is titled The Role that Art played in Upholding the Power and Authority of the Church.

Muni-muni sa Museo 2 invited professors from two different universities to share their knowledge on the topic. They are anthropologist and creative writer Dr. Arnold Azurin, and associate professor in Social Sciences Department of De La Salle University- Mr. Roland Ruben.

Art in Pre-colonial Times

“There is not much art* in pre-colonial period because the most important thing [for the natives] to do is to travel,” Dr. Azurin emphasised.

Because of that lifestyle, pre-colonial Filipinos made portable art. Their art were things that can be easily carried such as bracelets, jars, and beads. They also made art by inking images on their skin.

Many archeological pieces proved the exchange of spiritual ideas from India to the Philippines. Dr. Azurin said the 21-carat gold Golden Tara is one of the proofs of that cultural exchange. The 1.79 kilogram Hindu goddess now sits in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

According to Dr. Azurin, the Spaniards used performance art- rituals, feasts, and processions to spread Roman Catholicism. The colonisers also used parallelisms between existing deities and Christian figures to ease the conversion of the natives. The result is a curious mix of pagan practices and Spanish Christian traditions.

Making the Invisible Visible

Prof. Roland Ruben of De La Salle Dasmariñas shared an inspirational talk on how art can be used to see the beauty of God. Through the arts, he explained, people can experience God’s love. He mentioned the beauty of nature as one of the manifestations of God’s love. Furthermore, he described art as God’s way of reaching out to people.

“God, the creator, created us in his image. So we are also creators,” Prof. Ruben emphasized. Quoting Pope John Paul II’s letter to the artists, he challenged them “…not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it at the service of their neighbor and of humanity as a whole…"

The Power of Art

The discussions was summed up by Filipino visual artist, Manny Garibay. He concluded that the Arts's capacity to influence people has always been utilised by authority figures and those who are under them. The Roman empire and the Catholic church are cited as institutions that maximised this capacity.

He illustrated how art empowered 16th century Europeans when they depicted Biblical figures as their contemporaries. They started seeing God in their own likeness. Works by Raphael and Leonardo Da Vinci were cited to emphasize this idea. During the Reformation, the Catholic church reclaimed the faithful by transforming their structures. Churches employed architecture, painting and sculpture to recreate heaven on earth. The European colonisers imposed their superiority over the Filipino natives by introducing a caucasian god.

Director of Cavite Studies Center, Palmo Iya also joined the conversation. He said art could also be used as to fight against oppression. He pointed out that Philippines is still in the chains of foreign oppression and big businesses, and that is why people should use art as a weapon against power. Artists have a choice to speak their own voice instead of becoming a mere mouthpiece for the dominant class.

As a conclusion, attendees agreed artists should be faithful on what is true. The forum closed on the thought that art opens up possibilities and alternatives of what life could be.

Muni-muni sa Museo is a series of art talks and workshops on art, history, and society presented by Artletics, Inc. and Museo De La Salle. This lecture and dialogue series aims to initiate a necessary conversation on the role of art in cultural formation and societal movements.

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