KAPWA brings Philippine indigenous arts festival to UBC

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Shamans have a special role in indigenous cultures across the world.

As mediators between the natural and spiritual worlds, shamans heal both body and soul, passing on their sacred traditions orally from generation to generation. They’re a source of insight and wisdom.

Reverence for shamans is a custom shared by many native communities in Canada and the Philippines, linking them with a bond that has survived the ravages of colonialism.

This union will be among the common ties to be highlighted at an event on May 30 at UBC called KAPWA: Sensing Ourselves in One Another, a Philippine indigenous arts festival. (Kapwa is a Tagalog word describing both one’s personhood and shared self.)

Singer, songwriter, and author Grace Nono will deliver a lecture and perform at KAPWA, which runs from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the UBC Institute of Asian Research and the Liu Institute’s multipurpose hall.

The Philippine-born artist recently completed her PhD in ethnomusicology at New York University. She’s currently travelling across North America.

Nono has performed around the world, and is known for blending indigenous influences with mainstream music.

Her 2013 book Song of the Babaylan: Living Voices, Medicines, Spiritualities of Philippine Ritualist-Oralist-Healers explores the rich traditions of native healers in the Asian country. (Babaylan is a word in the Visayan language in the Philippines, which means “healer”, who is often a woman.)

Dismissed and often persecuted by organized religion as superstition, shamanism is alive in many indigenous communities in the Philippines.

It will be Nono’s first visit to Vancouver, Honorio “JR” Guerrero told the Straight by phone today (May 22).

Guerrero is a member of the Kathara Indigenous Pilipino Arts Collective Society, a local group that is co-organizing the event.

Guerrero has known Nono since the 1990s. When Guerrero was still based in Manila and performing as lead singer of the Hayp band, he moved in the same circles as Nono.

The six-hour KAPWA event is divided into two parts. It starts with a First Nations ritual welcoming participants. Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish Nation is among those invited to the festival. There will be a dialogue between representatives of the local Filipino community and First Nations groups about common issues relating to natural resource extraction in the Philippines and Canada. Works by local visual artist Bert Monterona and art collectives about indigenous culture and migration will be on display.

The second part of KAPWA begins with Nono’s lecture and performance. She will be followed by a Kathara presentation, dancer and choreographer Alvin Tolentino, and tattooist and singer Mayo Landicho.

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