Promoting Philippine arts and culture always goes hand in hand with nurturing the innate talent of local artists and providing continuous support for their craft. This is the guiding principle of the annual MaArte Fair, a fundraising social enterprise, which gathers small to medium business owners and the creative minds behind them to spotlight the beauty and individuality of the Filipino artist.
From a simple, private sector-initiative to raise funds for the National Museum, the MaArte fair has evolved just under the last decade into an important showcase for upcoming micro-entrepreneurs and a veritable display of world-class Filipino craftsmanship.
The past years have seen a formidable line-up of export-quality merchandise by top and emerging brands for custom furniture, fashion and travel accessories, beauty, and even artisanal gourmet selections. The high level of Filipino aesthetic expression found in the exhibit ranges from indigenous tribal materials, local craftsmanship, community-driven enterprise, and even contemporary products with hip and clever references to Filipino popular culture.
This year, the ninth edition of the fair, is slated on August 11 to 13 at The Peninsula Manila’s The Gallery in Makati City. Dubbed “MaArte at The Pen,” this outing will take a different approach by featuring 31 meticulously-vetted merchants for showcase in Tropical vignettes.
“This year we changed the concept of the fair and took it away from the bazaar look. We choose the exhibitors based on the quality of their products, and of course the rule is that they should employ Filipino workers and materials in executing their designs,” Phyllis Zaballero, vice president of the Museum Foundation of the Philippines, Inc.’s (MFPI) told The Manila Times in an interview at the fair’s press launch.
“Whatever we collect from our percentage of the sales, 50 percent goes to the National Museum, with the other half for toward administration and other projects because we regularly give out grants for publications and small museums in outlying cities who need help. There are small private museums who don’t know how to document and preserve so they come to us and ask for help,” she explained.
One of the chosen exhibitors is Al Valenciano’s Balay ni Atong, whose products are hand woven textiles done in traditional wooden looms by Ilocano artisans. Their weaving techniques have been passed on through generations, and base their patterns on designs of antique blankets and clothing materials dating from the 1800s to the mid-1900s.
“I work with at least 12 weaving communities in Ilocos. From the handwoven textile, we make blankets, scarves and even placemats. What is important in what I do is reproduce from specimens from the weaves of the mid-1900s because this is a dying industry. For us to be able to perpetuate the industry or the art, we to keep on producing them,” Valenciano shared with The Manila Times.
“We also try to use natural and indigenous dyes from Abra and silk from La Union. MaArte is one of our important outlets and keeps our work sustainable,” he added.
Another exhibitor is Aranaz, a is a fashion accessories label made popular with modern takes on Filipino materials. An endeavor by mother and daughters Becky Aranaz, Amina Aranaz-Alunan and Rosanna Aranaz, the stylish women describe their pieces as “exotic, artisanal accessories that evoke the cool leisure of Manila.” They build on the brand’s rich heritage and legacy of craftsmanship by making use of traditional crafts to bring it into modern day relevance.
For jewelry, Nicole Whisenhunt will showcase her designs pay illuminative homage, often of architecture she’s encountered on her travels around the country.
“It’s not just about drawing inspiration from a building and loosely translating its architecture onto wearable material now. I want to create jewelry that reminds someone of what she felt when she was in that location,” she shared.
“As you can see, we have had to meticulously select a good mix of exhibitors, comprised of both old and new, for this year’s fair,” said Jalandoni. “Of the new merchants, we are elated that we have on board the likes of Mich Araullo, Tweetie de Leon Gonzalez for TDLG, Aranaz, Two Chic by TC Alvarez, Cabaña Workshop, Stockton Row, Nicole Whinsenhunt, Haute Home, Violetvine by Amarie, and Filip+Inna.”
The streamlined list allows visitors a relaxed, seamless experience as they walk through The Gallery and see the products artfully displayed within tropical living room vignettes. “Think of it like you are being welcomed into the home of 31 highly celebrated Filipino craftsmen,” Gonzalez ended.