Sky & Water: Where Textile Traditions Meet

Mountain Spirits: Textiles and Folk Arts of Cordillera and Ilokos
Mills Building 220 Montgomery St. San Francisco
September 17 to December 7 2018
9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Tours by Appointment

Nothing could be more separate than the mountain ranges and the sea. This precisely demarcates the setting of the coming exhibit of The Hinabi Project at the Historic Mills Building on September 17 to December 7 2018. The mountain region, known collectively as the Cordillera is home to several ethnolinguistic communities who inhabit the valleys between the modern city of Baguio and the provincial city of Tabuk. Its people, indigenous and katutubo, builders of the majestic rice terraces, strive to keep their ethnicity intact while embracing selectively, modernity on their own terms, shielded by the mountains from outright colonization by Spain and the United States. The coastal towns of Ilokos with more accessibility to these modernizing forces took the brunt of Hispanization, specifically along its coast and river towns that display their industry and fealty with its splendid churches.
Nothing could be more different as well, than in their textile traditions. The Cordillera, until recently wove with the backstrap loom. The Ilokos made an industry of weaving facilitated by the standing floor loom. The challenge of the current exhibit is to discover whether in fact this two tradition intermingled. Each other's design are distinctly different. The Cordillera favored geometric monochromatic bands punctuated by mountain motifs unique to each linguistic group. The Ilokos favored checkered and floral designs often in bold color combinations of red, yellow and green. Where then, did they meet? San Francisco will have the opportunity to ponder this question during the next three months and even perhaps discover where it might go forward.

In Plain Sight: Textile Arts and Culture Come To San Francisco


San Francisco was treated to a very rare sight of brightly colored tops, skirts and trousers sauntering downhill along Sutter Street toward Montgomery. Passers-by were curious. Who are they? What’s going on? Their quizzical looks darted from the colorfully beaded combs down to the leather-clad feet of these mysterious visitors. “They’re indigenous people from the Philippines here to celebrate the opening of the textile art exhibit at the Mills Building on 220 Montgomery," someone finally provided the answer to the unasked question.
Members of the indigenous peoples, IP in shorthand, thrust their smart phones in the air as they soaked in the warm afternoon sun sneaking through the high rises that loomed over the financial district. Tiny cowrie shells and brass bells dangling from waistbands shivered and tinkled against the harsh city traffic. A young couple from the T’boli, paused in front of an open space rimmed by an iron fence and a flower box teeming with well-fed fescue. Extending their arms in a playful cinematic pose, they grinned widely, taunting smart phone cameras pointed in their direction. They were, as with everyone else in the group, quite delighted to be in the city that they’ve only heard of, with its Golden Gate bridge and foggy harbor. The group is called Dayaw International. In dialect, dayaw means “to present their essential selves.” (More)


Mountain Spirits: Textile and Folk Arts of the Cordilleras and Northern Luzon

The Hinabi Project (THP), a project of the Philippine Wrters and Artists, Inc. (PAWA) brings to San Francisco the distinctive styles of weaving from two regions physically separated by formi- dable mountain ranges and by their historical experience. The common perception in colonial history was that Northern Luzon and the Cordillera shared little by way of its cultural products because one was Christian, the other animistic and pagan. Traditional weaving in the Cordilleras was intricately a part of ritual life. Certain textiles embodied magical functions such a protec- tion from harm, or symbolized status and wealth. Important individuals known as kadangyan were buried with their prized blankets. It is said the more blankets, hence more thread counts, was a deterrent from malevolent spirits getting into the spirit of the deceased. The Cordilleras, largely inaccessible to Spanish missionaries, remained animistic until the United States acquired the Philippines from Spain and became the focus of Anglo-Saxon conversion to Protestant and Anglican denominations. Baguio, the American summer capital, although the first indigenous population to be acculturated to Anglo-Saxon culture in the Cordillera and served as a model of the American civilization process, kept its weaving tradition intact.
For the duration of the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade, the Ilokos was an important source of cotton fabric for naval sail. Native cotton grew in the lowlands to which Cordillera weavers would trade for their forest products. Undoubtedly, textile design ideas migrated as well and became part of the inabel Ilokos weaving repertoire. Cordillerans continued to weave their de- signs within their repertoire of ancestral motifs. These can be color band combinations, abstract peaks, human and animal figures. Ilokos inabel, on the other hand, has undergone a long pro- cess of secularization and while vestiges of ritual wear might be displayed in Catholic religious festivities, its production is more mercantile than an assertion of ethnic identity. Nonetheless, Ilokos weavers have developed their inabel styles incorporating flowers, spirals, and geometric combinations, to name a few. Through its efforts The Hinabi Project brings this exhibit to San Francisco to display the rare artisanal weaving from both traditions and to suggest, if not show, that traditional artistic ideas and motifs can bridge contemporary design. To find out more about THP and how you can support its projects, please visit www.thehinabiproject.org.