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Research Material on Ifugao Art and Culture

Literature: Collection
Cracked Concrete Wall

Ifugao Sculpture: Traditional Philippine Cordillera Art

Martin Kurer

This catalogue is published to accompany the UMAG exhibition Ifugao Sculpture Expressions in Philippine Cordillera Art. Rarely collected in such a broad group display, both figurative sculptures and ritual boxes exemplify the talent of artists from the Ifugao, Bontoc and Kankanaey tribes in the northern Luzon region of the Philippines. The exhibition and publication are organised in collaboration with Mr Martin Kurer and Asian ArtFuture (AAF), a collection specialising in contemporary and antique Asian art. The works displayed range from sculptural objects, including ‘bulul’ statues, deities associated with the production of bountiful harvests; ‘hipag’ figures, war deities used as vehicles through which divine help can be summoned; sculptural boxes used in ceremonies, the ‘punamhan’; and various boxes for the storage of food―sometimes called ‘tangongo’ or ‘tanoh’―along with other functional items such as ‘kinahu’, food bowls, and toys. Fascinated with the modern abstract style of these carved 19th- and 20th-century sculptures, this collection takes an artistic rather than an anthropological approach, highlighting the aesthetics of the displayed artworks rather than signifying them as ethnic markers or religious tools. Both the bulul figures and boxes are deeply connected to cultural rituals while presenting abstract expressions of a group of talented rural artists. Together, these selected pieces showcase the aesthetic and artistic side of a wide range of Cordillera sculptural art from the 18th through the 20th centuries. The pieces are arranged in line with various centres of artistic gravity―‘archaic’, ‘minimalist’, ‘transition’―although the lines are sometimes blurred, and most of the ‘archaic’ material also shows ‘minimalist’ elements. The publication draws comparisons with other tribal arts and describes their influence over modern Western artists, such as the Russian Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), the Romanian Constantin Brancusi (1876–1957) and the French artist George Braque (1882–1963). This claim is based on visual comparisons and it is each object’s physical structure, design value and international character that is highlighted in the current exhibition.


Provenance: Ramon Tapales
Collections & Recollections

Floy Quintos

A monograph written by Floy Quintos which details the pieces collected by Ramon Tapales back in the 70's and 80's. His style has defined the canon for indigenous art in the Cordilleras


In the Shape of Tradition

Eric Moltzau Anderson

This book is the first far-reaching comprehensive publication since 1890 to focus entirely on Northern Luzon indigenous art... Thanks to the helpful assistance of most knowledgeable contributors, the result of their extensive field work is know conveyed to hopefully instill further insight into Philippine art, history and culture facilitating a more profound understanding of a complex cultural remnant. Dealing with the traditional cultures of the Isneg, Itneg, Kalinga, Gaddang, Bontoc, Kankanay, Ifugao, Ibaloy, Ilongot, and Negrito, the subject is treated in a broad sense, covering spectacular artistic achievements in order to establish an impression of range and a basis for comparison. This publication is illustrated with about 500 mostly previously unpublished objects acquired by ethnographic museums all over the world. Tribal art dealers including Alain Schoffel, Alex Athur, Thomas Murray, Rudolf Kratochwill, Maria Closa, and Floy Quintos have contributed by making their collections accessible.


PHILIPPINES:  Archipelago of Exchange

Tribal Art Magazine

A Special Issue on the exhibition at the Musee du Quai Branly Paris held in 2013.

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Ethnographic Art of the Philippines: 
An Anthropological Approach

Eric Casino

A book written by Eric Casino which deals with the Pagan North and Muslim South. These areas have a great concentration of ethnic groups whose ethnographic art are well-documented.


Indigenous Archaeology in the Philippines:
Decolonizing Ifugao History

Stephen Acabado & Marlon Martin

Dominant historical narratives among cultures with long and enduring colonial experiences often ignore Indigenous histories. This erasure is a response to the colonial experiences. With diverse cultures like those in the Philippines, dominant groups may become assimilationists themselves. Collaborative archaeology is an important tool in correcting the historical record. In the northern Philippines, archaeological investigations in Ifugao have established more recent origins of the Cordillera Rice Terraces, which were once understood to be at least two thousand years old. This new research not only sheds light on this UNESCO World Heritage site but also illuminates how collaboration with Indigenous communities is critical to understanding their history and heritage.

Indigenous Archaeology in the Philippines highlights how collaborative archaeology and knowledge co-production among the Ifugao, an Indigenous group in the Philippines, contested (and continue to contest) enduring colonial tropes. Stephen B. Acabado and Marlon M. Martin explain how the Ifugao made decisions that benefited them, including formulating strategies by which they took part in the colonial enterprise, exploiting the colonial economic opportunities to strengthen their sociopolitical organization, and co-opting the new economic system. The archaeological record shows that the Ifugao successfully resisted the Spanish conquest and later accommodated American empire building.

This book illustrates how descendant communities can take control of their history and heritage through active collaboration with archaeologists. Drawing on the Philippine Cordilleran experiences, the authors demonstrate how changing historical narratives help empower peoples who are traditionally ignored in national histories.

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