Nikki Luna | Rape of Seas

Nikki Luna | Rape of Seas

„Nikki Luna, known for her confrontational approach to art, continues to take issue with the deep misogynism of the Duterte administration in Rape of Seas. The populist president of the Philippines has been uttering offensive and sexist remarks ever since he came to power, and the insidiousness of his regime has not just had the effect of gaslighting a nation, but abusing human rights and damaging sovereign rights with his particular policies and unfulfilled promises.

For many years, China has been steadily creeping into Philippine maritime territory, illegally fishing in the country’s waters, poaching marine animals to near extinction and seizing islands in the West Philippine Sea. In 2016, the Philippines won a landmark victory when the Permanent Court of Arbitration junked China’s nine-dashed line claims to the South China Sea. Yet China still flouts this ruling, sending its fishermen and deploying massive vessels that dredge up ecologically critical reefs to build artificial islands for its military. President Duterte continues to allow this to happen despite his campaign vow to ride a Jet Ski to the Spratlys and plant a flag there.

The Filipino people are not giving their consent to the President’s enabling of the rape of their seas, the destruction of the environment, and the persecution of the people. He has cast his own nation as the victim, blaming her for her own weakness when he says that the Philippines has little power against China — therefore sit back and just take it. But she will not be silenced. Through art, street, or diplomatic means, the protest is raised: this sea is our sea.

Luna’s current exhibit uses symbols from the West Philippine Sea dispute to emphasize the parallelism between Duterte’s violence against women and his permitting of China’s unlawful incursions into the Philippine’s exclusive economic zone. Clam shells, miniaturized to the size of a vagina, resemble scarred hymen, echoing the scars on the reefs. Pieces of gold, repeatedly cut into the shapes of Panacot Shoal and the Kalayaan Island reefs as seen in a historical map* published in Vienna in 1748, remind us of their original boundaries, centuries before the reefs were seized and irrevocably transformed into military installations. These slivers are engraved with words from women whose consent was disregarded, but they could very well be protests against the administration. Luna also embroiders two white flags with some of Duterte’s choice reasonings for acceding to China (flag 1), in addition to waging a failed drug war that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands (Flag 2 Hitler).

The framed dress, made of fabric from one of the Scarborough fishermen’s wives, is sewed with fishing net — this last piece brings the focus of the exhibit back to the Filipino people whose livelihoods are affected, in the short term, by being unable to fish in their traditional fishing grounds, and in the long term, by having the cradle of marine life robbed from future generations.
The West Philippine Sea is where life is birthed; its waters nurture the coral that nourish the fish that feed a nation. Luna wants us to remember that allowing this massive exploitation is another manifestation of the patriarchy; the President’s vulgar words, in jest they may be, are poisoning the very waters he claims to rule.“
– A.C. (The author wants to remain anonymous)

For more reference clíck the link to learn more about The Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea
by Antonio T. Carpio

Nikki Luna (1977) studied visual art and Women and Development Studies at the University of the Philippines. 2018 she received the prestigious Chevening Award to conduct a master in Art and Education at Goldsmiths University London, UK. In the same year she authored the book I Love my Body to raise body awareness among girls. She is the founder of the independent feminist publishing house Power In Her Story, creating books focusing on mainstreaming human rights and gender equality, with emphasis on the needs of marginalized groups of girls and women. In 2016, she was the recipient of a grant from the Asian Cultural Council. She exhibited her work already at Aichi Triennale, Japan, Singapore Biennale and Beijing Biennale.

“I believe that art is something that you can share. It feeds your soul.” (Nikki Luna)

*Valdés & Kaliwoda, 1748, VInsulæ Philippinæ Ex Autographo, Manilæ, published in Vienna, based on the Murillo Velarde map of 1734, which shows “Scarboro” shoal as part of the Philippines. The map also shows “Los Bajos de Paragua” (Spratlys) as part of the Philippines.