Quezon City – Four months after the tragic fire of a slipper factory which killed 74 workers – survivors, families, artists, musicians and filmmakers gathered last September 11 to launch a fundraiser for the victims’ continuing call for justice.
Spearheaded by the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), the Justice for Kentex Workers Art Exhibit, located at the Conspiracy Garden Cafe, Visayas Ave., Quezon City, showcased various artworks which were made by families of victims, residents near the Kentex factory along with artists and members of academic community.
During the exhibit’s launch, several Kentex survivors and relatives shared their plight and the lack of help amidst the government’s claim of providing compensation. A survivor even read one of the poems contributed by students from Bulacan State University. Documentary films, one produced by Brandon Relucio, recounted that midday of May 13, how the workers were “trapped like criminals” on the factory’s 2nd floor while residents were helpless and “hanggang tingala na lang (could only look up)” as lives were engulfed by flames. While musicians such as Gary Granada, Boy Dominguez, and the band General Strike played in between solidarity speeches. Granada even sang “Bahay”, one of his iconic songs, depicting the dismal conditions of urban poor settlers likened to the Kentex community.
Jerome Adones, secretary general of Kilusang Mayo Uno condemned the Aquino government and the Department of Labor and Employment for blaming the tragedy solely on the capitalist Kentex, “When in fact, Aquino’s general policy of widespread contractualization and the lack of labor safety standards are the root causes,” he said.
The Justice for Kentex Workers Art Exhibit is a long term project of CAP facilitated by contemporary artists Neil Doloricon, Aba Lluch Dalena and Lisa Ito. Prior to the exhibit’s launch, CAP organized two immersions to the Kentex community in Brgy. Ugong, Valenzuela last July 18 (First Step) and August 21 (Step into the Sweatshop) in order to draw real life experiences from the victims in crafting the artworks. Students of the U.P. College of Fine Arts, the U.P. Diliman University Student Council, and organizations such as Alay Sining and Gabriela-Youth joined these community visits wherein families and survivors shared their stories.
Making these kinds of artworks is not a formal exercise, but rather something that must come from the desire to be part of a larger movement for change
Lisa Ito, also a faculty member of the U.P. College of Fine Arts, said that this was a way for people to support the victims. “Making these kinds of artworks is not a formal exercise, but rather something that must come from the desire to be part of a larger movement for change,” she said. CAP received dozens of contributions ranging from mixed media, slipper carvings, rubber stamps of slippers on canvass which included names and photos of the victims, among others. Leeroy New, known for designing a muscle dress worn by Lady Gaga, and his eccentric installation art – crafted a vest made out of slippers. Ito said that though the common element present in the works was the image of a slipper is was “the vision and the desire for change and solidarity” that drove people and different artists to work together. “Kasi normally hindi naman ito magkakasali, may kanya-kanyang exhibit sila from students to professionals – pero all came together on this cause,” she added.
Aba Lluch Dalena while facilitating the workshop last August 21 was on the verge of tears when she saw the smiles of children participating since it was their first time being taught how to draw and hold a paint brush. “Nakakaiyak ang mga kwento nila. Pero I had to control myself,” she said. Dalena was also active in the relief efforts for victims of Typhoon Yalanda in Tacloban and couldn’t help but mention the contrast of the two tragedies as “water” and “fire”.
Meanwhile, Pedro Magat, a drummer for the bands Los Indios Bravos and Ciudad Tribu, used what was readily available in the community and converted them as percussion instruments. He utilized rubber slippers, a water container, a can of spray paint and a broomstick to make drum beats which he also described as a way of honoring the victims and “making noise” that other people be made aware of the issue.
The Justice for Kentex Workers Art Exhibit is open to the public until September 28. All proceeds from the artworks will be donated for the victims’ families. For more information, contact Consiparcy Garden Cafe at #59 Visayas Ave., Quezon City with Tel. 453-2170 or visit the Concerned Artists of the Philippines Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/artistangbayan. #