The Power of Art in the Hands of Women Who Persist and Resist

In line with the celebration of International Women’s Month, all-women art fair Gandang-Ganda Sa Sariling Gawa, or GGSSG, was recently held at the Commission Human Rights to put a spotlight on women’s rights and struggles through different forms of art. In collaboration with the CCP Intertextual Division, GGSSG art fair was organized by Gantala Press, an independent and feminist collective that provides creative writing space for women. Filipina artists showcased their advocacies and talents through books, zines, stickers, postcards, shirts, bags, and other accessories. 

“It started as a response to book fairs and art fairs that are male-dominated. We’ve created Gandang-Ganda Sa Sariling Gawa to respond to that lack of space for women creators. Mostly our target are mothers, teachers, and youth, so we also encourage women to exhibit their works. We wish that we can continue this art fair to make art democratic,” Rae Rival from Gantala Press said. Art has been an underrated avenue for fighting about social issues including women’s rights, and the message it sends are often overlooked.  

The attendees at GGSSG IV

Some of the exhibitors explained the message behind their works and expressed their purpose in participating at GGSSG art fair: 

Some of the zines written by Mao Factolerin

Gusto ko kasi mainly mag-raise ng awareness sa mga nangyayari sa mga kababaihan hindi lang tuwing women’s month o all-women art fair. Each time na mayroon akong chance na ipakita ’yung wonders ng pagiging babae and at the same time imulat yung mga tao dun sa dinadanas ng mga babae na violence, sexual harrassment kung saan-saan kahit gaano kaliit o kalaki ay nagma-matter at valid lahat ng narrative nila,” writer Mao Factolerin said as she described her zines. 

Feminist art prints by Kapok Collective

Gusto kong mas mapakalat pa ’yung women’s art and writing. Basically more on experiences of women, gay desire or gay girl longing, and self-defense as a woman,” Rayji de Guia from Kapok Collective gave us an overview on the poetry books she wrote. 

Aika proudly showed her zine, Sabaw

“Frustrated kasi ako na parang bakit ’yung mga tao wala silang pakialam since hindi naman sila naapektuhan so sa pamamagitan ng paggawa ko ng mga zines at comics pinapasok ko doon in a way na ’di sya gaanong napapansin, tinago ko sya sa slice of life eh. Pero kung titignan mo sa mas malalim na perspective, doon mo sya makikita,” Aika Velasco, a writer and first-time exhibitor shared her goals in joining the art fair.

Mark posed with his artworks after the interview

“It’s a way of solidarity ’yung pagsali [sa GGSSG]. Itong ‘Ma, Yoko Na’ at Iba Pang Kuwento ng Pag-cut ng Classes, parang ’yung concept n’yan ’yung mga bagay na ’di mo masabi easily sa nanay mo. Kumbaga dinedicate namin sya sa mga nanay saka sa mga friends din namin na ’di makapag-vent out ng mga struggles nila sa nanay o magulang nila,” Mark talked about the concept of the zines he wrote with his partner Mara.

Small pins made by Kultura Kontra

Nakita naming magandang venue [’yung GGSSG art fair] para maipakilala yung aming produkto. Sayang yung art, anong silbi nya? Syempre sumasalamin sya sa buhay ng mga tao. Hindi lang naman ’to simpleng basta nagtitinda, nakikita rin natin na may iba-ibang issues na isinusulong sa kababaihan, sa problema sa ekonomiya,” Sheng from Kultura Kontra explained. 

Roma Estrada from Gantala Press delivered her short speech before the forum starts

The theme of the fourth GGSSG was “Madre Tierra: Women and Climate Justice”. Several speakers from various groups and organizations shared their experiences and movement in battling with the negative impacts of climate change and class inequality during the short forum. 

Kakay Tolentino from BAI Indigenous Women’s Network

Kakay Tolentino, national coordinator of BAI Indigenous Women’s Network, emphasized the daily struggles of indigenous women such as human rights violations, military harassment, and the continuous community displacements. 

Myrna Candinato from Pamalakaya

Reclamation and development aggression projects worsen the state of the seas and other bodies of water as well as the livelihood of our fisherfolk. Myrna Candinato from Pamalakaya, the National Federation of Small Fisherfolk Organizations in the Philippines, highlights the integral role of women fisherfolk in the fishing industry particularly in post- and pre-harvest production. She also mentioned that fisherfolk are some of the most affected by climate change and the loss of biodiversity. 

Zen Soriano from Amihan

Amihan National Chairperson Zen Soriano recalled the recent calamities in the country and the hardships they faced. She also tackled the conditions of peasant families after calamities where women and children are the most affected. The lack of basic supplies such as food, clean water, proper hygiene, and sanitation leads to sickness and disease.

Mitzi Tan from Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines

Mitzi Tan from Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines ended the forum by encouraging people, especially the youth, to strengthen climate action and get involved with the climate change crisis that the Philippines is facing. During her lecture, she also indicated the negative impacts of global warming on our environment in the near future. 

Atty. Twyla Rubin from Commission on Human Rights joined the speakers after the forum

The long-standing struggle of women in the Philippines will never be easy as long as patriarchy, sexism, misogyny, and class oppression prevails. Along with this are misconceptions and false ideas about feminism. The call for women’s rights must include the plight of female workers, farmers, fisherfolk, women with disabilities, LGBTQ+, and even the marginalized sectors. Until now, society has not yet reached the point of clearly understanding what women are fighting for, and with that, we still have a very long way to go. 

How do you show your support for women? Share your thoughts with us!

Photos by: Rob Roy Agpay

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Kayla Ramos

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