Filipino American artist Ria Unson portrays personal and historical representations of Filipinos within frames used by colonial powers—from Western Literature to World Fairs—to challenge the origin and scope of the stories spectators use to shape their identities: Where do stories of civilization and savagery come from? Why do many societies associate certain physical traits with either superiority or inferiority? How do we learn to perceive each other in the ways we do? Which language do we use to express ourselves and how does that language influence our thoughts and beliefs?
For this exhibition, Unson delves into what it looks like to reclaim our narratives, whether it is by painting family portraits on Western books or creating composite imagery from present-day portraits of Filipino women and projected photos from the Philippine Exhibit at the 1904 World’s Fair. Mga kuwento namin also includes a soundtrack that features stories from the women subjects, spoken in their historically suppressed mother tongues—a way of commemorating the Philippine pre-colonial oral history tradition.