Nikki Luna’s ‘Rape of Seas’ is a seething commentary on Duterte’s failure to protect PH territory
The artist’s new exhibit draws parallels between Duterte’s sexism and the gov’t’s blatant disregard for the assault on the West Philippine Sea
Feb 21, 2020
With the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) repealed recently by President Rodrigo Duterte, the West Philippine Sea is once again at risk of total reclamation from China.
Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio writes in his Inquirer opinion column: “The abrogation by President Duterte of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) will remove the only remaining deterrence to China’s reclamation of Scarborough Shoal.” No longer will the US’s “red line” that has long shooed Chinese forces away. And our own President is the first to justify the decision, he who has firmly believed that there is nothing we could do against China.
Feminist artist Nikki Luna, on the other hand, is not having any of President Duterte’s neglect of what has long been proven to be ours. In a new exhibit in Vienna, Luna who’s known for her radical works that voice the issues of the oppressed, draws parallelisms between the President’s violence against women and his permitting of China’s unlawful incursions into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The exhibit entitled “Rape of Seas” features five inquisitive pieces alluding to the longstanding fight against China’s illegal claim while also offering commentary on Duterte’s obliviousness in the middle of all of it.
In true Luna approach, the artist underlines the feminist aspect of this struggle through objects and imagery, beginning her critic on surface level with the most visible of China’s encroachment of our marine resources through the giant clams locally called taklobo. Fifty 3D-scanned miniature giant clams the size of a vagina are neatly arranged on one side of Unttld Contemporary Gallery, resembling a scarred hymen, echoing the scars on the reefs.
Referencing a 1748 map of the Philippine territory printed in Vienna, Luna also made cutout 18k gold pieces shaped like the Panacot or the Scarborough Shoal engraved with phrases like “You don’t own us,” “Don’t be an enabler” and “Don’t invade our space,” which the artist describes as “words from women whose consent was disregarded, but they could very well be protests against the administration.”
But perhaps the most arresting of all the artworks, one most representative of Luna’s subversive style is a dress made of fabric from one of the Scarborough fishermen’s wives and sewn with fishing net nylon strings. Framed and pressed against the glass, the crumpled dress looks less like an archival number and more of a piece of evidence of a crime committed. This along with the white flags embroidered with Duterte’s defeatist statements about China’s abuses, encapsulate the exhibit’s aim: to remind us that the government is letting a violent assault happen. The exhibit is less about patriarchy and rape as much as it is about global politics
Photos courtesy of Nikki Luna
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