Bone art in Manila honours forgotten women and their labour
Nikki Luna's painted lilies reject 'all these boxed definitions of a woman'
Nikki Luna is an artist, feminist and activist from Manila whose beautiful work often deals with upsetting societal issues. Nikki says she's "more vocal" than many other artists in Manila. "If I see something wrong, I'll say it."
For this work, Nikki painted lilies — "a symbol of a woman" — onto the pelvis of a woman labourer. She specifically chose a pelvis because it "holds the whole weight of the upper body" to honour the multiple burdens of women labourers in the Philippines and under patriarchy — both daily economic labour and reproductive labour ("care for the kids, care for the husband, have sex with the husband").
The densely-populated areas of the Philippines face a problem where those who run public cemeteries remove the remains of those whose relatives don't pay rent for the grave site, sometimes without even notifying them. Nikki says that this bone was one from a public cemetery "where they actually throw [away], in sacs, the skeletons that were in tombs but were not being paid for anymore."
Nikki painted the lilies in a similar way that evokes a tattoo "because we aren't born with a tattoo, the same as expectations of being a woman." She wants to emphasize that these "boxed definitions of a woman" aren't there inherently, and aren't "someone's fate."
Art as political protest, as a means of survival, as an agent of change, as a display of courage and delight. Interrupt This Program explores art in cities under pressure. Watch Interrupt This Program's full episode from Manila now.