Sculptor Imao’s Islam-inspired art gets the designer treatment

A top from the 40-piece collection by Freeway honouring Abdulmari Asia Imao. Courtesy Freeway

In 2006, sculptor Abdulmari Asia Imao became the first – and to date only – Muslim to be named National Artist of the Philippines.

The prestigious award is bestowed by the Philippine government to citizens who have made remarkable contributions to the development of the country’s art scene.

Imao, whose colourful works were heavily inspired by his Islamic faith and Arabic calligraphy, died in 2014 at the age of 78. This year, the Philippine fashion label Freeway is honouring him and his artistic legacy by featuring his graphic prints in a 40-piece womenswear collection (available for international purchase on It includes casual T-shirts, dresses, jumpsuits, scarves and bags, and several items feature woven fabrics and knits.

“This is a wonderful platform in which to pull out the works from the context of galleries and museums and into the public sphere,” says Imao’s son, Abdulmari “Toym” Imao Jr. “The artworks become more accessible. Besides wearing something that you appreciate visually, it’s also a matter of pride that you are wearing something done by a National Artist.”

What would his father have thought of the collection?

“He would be tickled pink,” says Imao Jr. “It’s a reincarnation of his vision. It’s very flattering.”

Imao, who was born and raised in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, came from a family of farmers and boat-makers. Growing up, he helped his family by carving and etching souvenir items that he sold to tourists.

Veteran star back on the big screen after 17 years

Charo Santos-Concio has announced she will return to film acting this year.

The 60-year-old media executive and television presenter last appeared on the big screen in Jerry Lopez Sineneng’s 1999 drama, Esperanza the Movie. Her Philippine-cinema debut was in Mike de Leon’s 1976 film Itim/The Rites of May, for which she won the best actress award at the Asian Film Festival.

The chief content officer for Philippine TV net­work ABS-CBN, Santos-­Concio said this week that she had just finished filming a feature drama with Lav Diaz, who recently won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival for his eight-and-a-half-hour historical epic Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery).

Her comeback film, Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Went Away), was shot in Mindoro, the northern Philippine province where she hails from. The movie is scheduled for release this year.

“It’s nice to be back,” she said. “The challenge is different – instead of looking at the logistics, production requirements, cash flows, you work on breathing life to your character.”

On working with Diaz, she added: “I was so honoured to have been approached by Lav. I didn’t even think twice about it after I read the material. I also discussed my apprehensions. I told him, ‘I feel so scared but at the same time excited, so it must be the right feeling.’ ”

Philippines at Venice Architecture Biennale

After returning to the Venice Art Biennale last year after a 51-year absence, this week the Philippines unveiled its first pavilion at the International Architecture Biennale at Venice.

The pavilion’s exhibition, featuring works by a group of Filipino architects led by Edgardo Ledesma Jr, is titled Muhon: Place Markers in the Search for Emerging Identity. Muhon is a Filipino word for landmark or boundary stone. The show focuses on nine old buildings in Manila and their potential for architectural heritage.

The Philippine pavilion was organised by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The exhibition “seeks to start a discussion on built environment and its relation to cultural identity, using the dense capital Metro Manila as its subject”, organisers said. “It aims to explore the architect’s role in building or demolishing built heritage and its implications in an adolescent city in flux.”

The Venice International Architecture Biennale continues until November 27.

Sid Lucero and film Toto win at Los Angeles fest Sid Lucero won the best actor prize at the Los Angeles Comedy Film Festival for his performance in Toto. The movie, directed by John Paul Su, was also awarded best foreign film award.

In the dark comedy, the 35-year-old Lucero plays Toto, an ordinary Filipino who dreams of moving to America.

Toto also features Filipino actors Thou Reyes, Bembol Roco, Bibeth Orteza and Mara Lopez.

Lucero stars in the television drama The Millionaire’s Wife alongside Jaclyn Jose, who recently became the first Filipino to win the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival, for her role in Brilliante Mendoza’s Ma’ Rosa.


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