Cordillera weavers as visual artists

BRAND STRENGTH | Fashion and décor brand Narda’s has exported woven textiles and garments that blended art and utility. (Photo by EV ESPIRITU / Inquirer Northern Luzon)

BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — Imelda Cadaweng, a Baguio-based weaver who hails from Mountain Province, has matched a terra-cotta art piece rendered by Luisa Galang with a woven tapestry that is on display at the University of Baguio.

Cadaweng belongs to a group of weavers trying their hands at producing woven art for a project called, “Art Weave,” which features handwoven tapestries that interpret nine paintings being exhibited at this year’s crafts show, “Mandeko Kito” (Ibaloy for ‘Let’s sell’).

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In a video documentation, Cadaweng admitted being a little apprehensive about producing a companion tapestry for Galang’s piece, which has snake-like terra cotta heads leaping off the canvas. With the help of fellow weaver Leticia Bacolong, Cadaweng’s “translation” was a brown woven textile embossed with cartoon-like brown heads attached to elongated necks.

Intricate tapestry

Near her exhibit loomed a giant blue canvas with a stark, three-dimensional orange tree made of beads. This mixed-media painting by Julius Lumiqued was matched with a warm blue ikat shawl with its own orange beadwork that was produced by weaver Jane Kis-ing.

Maria Rosalina Wanget, originally from Tadian town in Mountain Province, said she used to produce home decor. Her companion piece to a multicolored and multilayered portrait of a Cordillera house by Hermie Bruno was a comparatively intricate tapestry of a traditional mountain abode.

‘Simple, rudimentary’

The fusion of weaving and contemporary art in the exhibition was the brainchild of fashion designer Twinkle Ferraren, who believed it would open a new market for struggling weavers, said John Arvin Molintas, who serves as the executive director of the Baguio Arts and Crafts Collective Inc. (BACCI).Like many Baguio craftspeople, major artists and even performing bands, weavers like Cadaweng suffered gravely during the two years of quarantine after the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in 2020. Health and travel restrictions barred tourists who were their major customers.