‘Surogpon Kita’ emphasizes the value of connection

Everything in this world is connected — our space connects to galaxies, planets, stars, cells and even atoms. Our environment is a network of interconnected life forms, including humans, animals, plants and other living species. Human connections make the world even more meaningful. Coexistence with nature is essential in maintaining a healthy and balanced planet. Realizing our interconnectedness with our natural surroundings enables us to foster a sense of responsibility fundamental in promoting a sustainable world. This is explored by the Bicol-based,
non-profit collective Kintab Artists Group, Inc. (KAGI) in the art installation, Surogpon Kita (We Are Connected), on display at the front lawn of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The outdoor exhibit was mounted to celebrate Earth Day and runs until 28 May.

The 10-year-old art collective makes art not only for self-expression but also to educate the community on various social causes. This time, KAGI tackles protection of our planet by highlighting the value of human “connectedness” with nature.

Surogpon Kita features papier-mâché masks and assemblages made by artisans from the Bicol Region, the artists, and those who participated in the workshops facilitated by the group. The installation also includes elements created using natural and native materials sourced from the region, such as abaca ropes, coco coir, palaspas, cogon grass and balagon or forest vines. At first glance, it looks like randomly placed bamboo trunks with giant displays of masks and crawling vines. But when viewed from an elevated vantage point, formations of nature elements — leaves, flowers, plants
— become visible from the connected dots. The act of connecting the dots symbolizes the people’s engagement and action in repetitive learning as a response to the climate crisis. Moreover, the materials used in the display are natural materials, symbolizing the resources humans rely on in their daily lives. The masks, on the other hand, represent people of all ages from different walks of life and various social backgrounds and cultures.

‘Surogpon Kita’ view from above.

“The masks represent the people. We, as people, are connected to Earth, to our ecosystem. We use materials that represent that connection. The main image is like connecting the dots, like the child’s play. It’s simple. We also planted crawling vines, which we hope would grow and eventually envelop the whole installation,” said Vladimir Grutas, one of the KAGI artists, during the opening of the outdoor art installation last 20 April.

Vladimir Grutas (leftmost), together with Bob Maltizo, KAGI president (second to the left) during the setting up of ‘Surogpon Kita’ at the CCP front lawn.

The giant masks were made and designed by the participants of KAGI’s papier-mâché mask-making workshops conducted in various venues such as jails, universities and even at the CCP. According to Grutas, in order to emphasize their true message of connection, people from all walks of life should be involved in the creation. Thus, they decided to feature their hand-painted faces in the installation.

“In our place in Bicol, we organize an art festival where we invite artists from different regions such as Daet, Camarines Norte, Albay, among others. We connect and collaborate with the artists, we engage in dialogues. That’s what will make the art grow and blossom. If you contain your art in one place, it will die. You have to expand beyond your boundary, and connect with other artists,” said Grutas.