Sunday, March 8, 2009

God Loves Ugly



If you walk into the supermarket isle in a Filipino grocery store, or any market place in the Philippines, you’ll find a product that I’ve always found upsetting; skin bleaching products. Skin bleaching is one of the biggest makeup products sold in the Philippines, in an effort to obtain that foreign, fair skinned complexion. The Filipino people are naturally darker, are naturally brown, bronzed, and tanned, so why try to change this? It actually comes from a mindset instilled by the Spanish colonization. Over 300 years, the Spaniards subjugated the Philippine people and effectively made the people third class citizens in their own country. Malcolm X had similar sentiments when saying that the man has been teaching the colored that their culture and aesthetic are wrong and ugly, while the foreign white men and their Christ are pure and good, as a means to keep the coloreds in check.

God Loves Ugly Mask 1

The Spaniards had effectively made the Filipino people believe that their native culture is obsolete, their gods false, and their own natural skin tone ugly. But before the Spanish came, none of these foreign concepts were taken to heart.

God Loves Ugly Mask 2

I chose to paint on masks, because the look of a man’s face is only a mask, but the reason as to why the man makes the face is as deep as the mind. Dark tones were first applied, then layered with brighter colors, as if to conflict with what was originally underneathe. Eyes and lips are accented on each mask, as if each mask was seeing and expressing themselves in what they should look like. Each mask is highlighted with a gold section: One mask’s chin, the other’s forehead, and the last their left side of the face. This, I felt was either the true soul of the mask trying to shine, or the true mask that their face wears, all depending on how you want to see it.

God Loves Ugly Mask 3

Written in Baybayin, which is an ancient writing system used by Filipinos and predating Spanish colonization, I wrote "God loves ugly" on them. Or really, the phonetic equivalent of the Tagalog translation, "Mahal ang dios ang mga pangit". I think it’s important to note that the word for "god" used in this one is "Dios", which comes from Jesus (Dios Cristo), the foreign god that the Spaniards introduced. It gives a nice touch of irony to the overall piece in saying that one is loved by a foreign god that was deemed better than their inherent ones, and one is considering himself ugly because they were told so. But the main point is, if the Christ god of the Spaniards was all loving, then the Filipino people didn’t need to stay indoors all day for fear of the sun darkening their skin, or have to bleach themselves. But they did it anyways because they were being taught that the darker native people were beneath the foreign Spaniards in their society. And to this day, the mindset of fairer complexion as a standard of beauty is so embedded into the Filipino culture, that it’s something many of us just accept.

But I don’t. Because if there is a god, then I’m sure he/she/or it wouldn’t be so petty.

God Loves Ugly Masks set

God loves ugly, but who told you what ugly is?

Set of 3 masks.
Acrylic, spray paint and paint markers.

The Bathala Project.
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