LOOK: Filipino artists present local ‘queering myths’ in photo project

Dubbed as ‘Diwata,’ the photograph collection is currently part of the Southeast Asia Queer Cultural Festival 2021: ‘Be/Longings,’ running until March 13

The Oryol, Nagmalitung Yawa Sinagmaling Diwata, and Sirena

Filipino artists and fashion creatives Renz Botero, Natu Xantino, and Ram Botero put queer culture and Philippine mythology on the spotlight with their visual work dubbed “Diwata.”

Presented at the Southeast Asia Queer Cultural Festival 2021: “Be/Longings” until March 13, 2021, the group’s photography work shows the country’s pre-colonial gods and deities following artist Grey Grant’s essay on queering mythology.

“This queer reading, or queering mythology, is the inspiration of our photography project, ‘Diwata.’ While homoerotic and gender non-conforming narratives can be found in pre-colonial Philippine mythology, only fragments remain, and their authenticity is still contested,” the artists say. “Just as mythology is not historically accurate, our reimagination of pre-colonial deities transcends history to represent true experiences. It is a celebration of our boundless capacity to transform.”

“Diwata” features Filipino folklore such as the legend of the Moon deity Bulan and Sidapa the god of death. There’s also the tale of Ikapati or Lakapati the goddess of agriculture, who then was a symbol “that gender-crossing is ubiquitous across cultures.” And there’s Alimungkat, a sirena or mermaid featured in a myth told among the Manobos. She serves as a figure for trans culture, as “womanhood and femininity are not defined by what’s between her legs.”

In one of their research, the artists mention Filipino anthropologist F. Landa Jocano, who suggested “that mythology fulfills one of the most important functions in society—it serves as a means through which people can logically present fundamental concepts of life and systematically express the sentiments to which they attach such concepts\that they attach to such concepts.”

Ikapati or Lakpati

“Mythology, though, is not only concerned with creation, but also transformation,” the artists say. “These stories of transformation, prevalent in mythologies, challenge the hegemony of heteronormativity.”

In a social media post, a research group dedicated to Filipino myths, The Aswang Project, weighed in on the aim of the artists with their work saying that “legends and epics adapt and change for the society at the time of its telling.”

“Philippine pre-colonial societies regarded their myths as containing psychological and archetypal truths,” the post continues. “If modern Philippine society needs symbols for the LGBTQ movement, then that is their purpose for today, based on evidence or fiction.”

Discover more about “Diwatahere