Mas Masarap Magkasama


Maria Dumlao & Bahay215 (Nicky Uy and Omar Buenaventura)
Curated by Tina Plokarz

The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Philadelphia PA
April 16 – August 13, 2022

The multimedia exhibition Companions – mas masarap magkasama, by Filipino-American visual artist Maria Dumlao in collaboration with Filipinx group Bahay215, Nicky Uy and Omar Buenaventura, explores food culture as a vehicle for the human desire for belonging and rooting into a new environment. The exhibition features a series of interactive prints and site-specific installations that open a dialogue about ecology, authorship, and cultural authenticity in today’s intertwined environments.

For centuries, cultures and communities have defined themselves through food. What that food is, in turn, is defined by the local species that live and grow there, wild and cultivated. In the Philippines, this varies between the more than 7,000 islands that make up the archipelago, but often means tropical fruits and coconut, rice, pork, and seafood—giving rise to regional cooking techniques and family recipes like sinigang, a clear soup flavored with a local souring agent like tamarind; or laing, taro leaves cooked in coconut cream. Spanish colonization and American imperialism have influenced, and altered Filipinx food and culture, affecting people and plants alike.

In Companions – mas masarap magkasama (which roughly translates to “more delicious together”), visual artist Maria Dumlao in collaboration with Bahay215, a collective founded by Nicky Uy and Omar Buenaventura, explore what it looks like to be Filipinx in the United States today. What stories are told, and which are suppressed by colonialism and migration? And how can both be made visible in a respectful conversation that honors the past and sustains life into the future? The Visitor Center features a series of newly created prints by Maria Dumlao exploring what is omitted or uprooted in (neo)colonial narratives. As ‘displaced relatives’ connecting Asia, Europe, and North America, the emerging vegetation, species, and creatures tell hidden stories of indigeneity, food trades, migration, and acclimating environments.

Inside the gallery, natural and metaphorical ingredients from botany and commerce are assembled into colorful images: invasive knotweed in familiar landscapes, processed pork meat on pineapples, and buzzing honey bees populate homes, forests, and garden centers. Outdoors at the Visitor Center, two of Dumlao’s large-scale prints are accompanied by a bamboo structure, installed by Bahay215’s Omar Buenaventura and Nicky Uy and loosely inspired by stilt houses original to the Philippines called bahay kubo. The viewer can look through colored filter panels—like stained glass windows, and experience the stories and lives portrayed with different lenses.

This exhibition is part of the Schuylkill Center’s “Year of Restoration” in 2022, in which the art program embraces nature’s restorative and healing powers. As we learn to both protect our environment from and adapt it to today’s globalized world, and as we learn to adapt ourselves to new lands and changing climates, Companions breaks down the false dichotomy between nature and culture. Blending art, ecology and food, the exhibition explores how we, as individuals and as a community, define ourselves at home—through food, through plants, and through each other.


EVENT PROGRAMMING

Summer Wild Food Walk and Talk Saturday, June 4 | 2:00–3:00 pm | Free Learn about wild foods with environmental educator Nick Tonetti and their possible adaptation into Filipinx recipes with Bahay215’s Nicky Uy. They will discuss and sample nature’s delicious diversity. Become acquainted with mulberries, mugwort, and others known to be invasive or weeds, a grouping of plants that Dr. Jessica Hernandez, Indigenous scientist and author of “Fresh Banana Leaves,” calls our ‘displaced relatives’. As we listen, walk and share recipes on the trails and in the gallery, for laing, sabaw and other foods traditional to attendees, we will learn from our displaced relatives and each other about ways we connect to land through food. Registration is required.

Art Workshop in RGB with Maria Dumlao Thursday, July 15 | 5:00–7:00 pm | Free; suggested donation of $5-10. Pineapple on SPAM garnished with the colors of light red, green and blue – these are the natural and metaphorical ingredients from botany to commerce that are assembled into colorful prints by Maria Dumlao in our newest exhibition Companions. Join us for a hands-on exploration into the hidden stories of indigenousness, colonization, and food culture between the Philippines and North America by learning from the artist about her practice and experiment with colors in the gallery. We’ll be making art and tasting native ingredients from the forest. Space is limited. Registration is required.









Photos by Ricky Yanas

 
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