Pacita Abad always engaged with Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) wherever she travelled. OFW is the term given to more than 10 million Filipino citizens who work abroad in places like Hong Kong, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and numerous other nations throughout the world. The Philippines is one of the biggest exporters of human labour, which in return is also one of the largest contributions to its annual gross domestic product.
Frequently discriminated against, many OFWs fnd comfort in socialising with their compatriots, particularly on their days off. While they are often the economic lifelines for their families back home and are able to manage some of their own income and livelihoods abroad, many OFWs feel trapped and face appalling conditions, abusive employers, and unscrupulous agents. They are also at a high risk of being tracked, with little to no legal or welfare support. Part of her Immigrant Experience series, Abad’s painting is an homage, a poignant rendering that reminds of the heartbreaking plight of many Filipino workers abroad.
Waikabubak was inspired by Abad’s ten-day trip to the small Indonesian island of Sumba in 1994. Waikabubak is the cultural centre of the island with traditional houses and unique stone graves surrounded by felds of rice. It is also famous for its colourful ikat fabric (such as the one shown at the Taragaon Museum as part of the Triennale), as well as its distinctive mamuli jewellery ornaments, which are worn as sacred relics. In Abad’s painting, she depicts a mamuli between two tribal sculptures, reminiscent of Sumba and its people. The work is a part of her series Masks and Spirits.
The presentation of Pacita Abad’s works is made possible with support from Toyota.