Creating an art community

In pursuing what keeps our soul alive, we find our place in a community, we find our people. For Mindanao State University – Marawi students who seek to be art missionaries, they found a family in their university’s art club — OKIR.

OKIR — the university art club was established in 2005. Its founding members took inspiration from OKIR, a term that refers to a repertoire of art motifs consisting of plant forms that are prominent in the art of Lanao and Sulu. For the founders,  adapting OKIR as the club name centers their mission to their culture. OKIR’s unending curves and colors can be seen in almost every Meranao household and activity which is eminent in their culture. 

The same way becoming an artist takes hard work and dedication, becoming a full-fledged member of the Okir Art club entails conducting at least two community service activities, a mini art exhibition and a variety show. 

Mother by Jalicareza R. Jamail

For one of OKIR’s alumna, Jalicareza R. Jamail or Kika, the university art club is a home for aspiring artists. A member since 2015 and also one of its leaders since 2017, Kika is now a civil engineer. Her visual art forms are painting and drawing.

Elyssa H. Macapodi, also known as Ely, is currently studying BS Sustainable Community Development at MSU – Marawi and has been an OKIR Art club member since 2019. She is focusing on portraiture and digital art.

“Okir – The University Art Club is not just an ordinary organization for me. It allows me to explore various things that I have never experienced in my entire life. This organization improves your art skills, social skills and as well as your personality,” Ely said.

Unspoken Feeling by Ciarae Jan G. Fuentes

Rediscovering our culture

From what started from just thinking of a nickname for each other, OKIR Art club members have created a tradition of calling each other ‘Vinz’ after Leonardo da Vinci. This started when they were coming up with names to call their members. After looking up about da Vinci, they learned that ‘Vinci’ is what they call members of an artist group and now they call each other ‘Vinz.’

Ciarae Jan G. Fuentes, fondly called Sweet, is taking up BS Electronics and Communication Engineering at MSU – Marawi. She has been a member since 2017 and was chosen to be the Grand Artisan (President) of OKIR last 2020.

Through OKIR, Ciarae discovered more about the beautiful culture in Mindanao, and she believes that OKIR helped her learn more about compassion despite cultural differences.

“Upon entering the club, the Vinzes taught me a lot of things, not just through visual art but also in life. I admit, on my first year in the club, I struggle a lot because of the language barrier since majority of our present members are Maranao; but as time pass by, I learn to understand them, even their body language. OKIR – The University Art Club is indeed a good platform for a student like me who loves art, because it gives a lot of opportunity not just to improve skill and boost self-esteem, but mold us to become an advocate of good will. OKIR taught me about compassion, too. Through visual art, we use our talent to express our screams while inspiring the youth,” Ciarae said.

Sari by Sittie Rania I. Candotan

Improving our selves, our art

Sittie Rania I. Candotan, known as Rania, has been a member of OKIR since 2015. She also led the club as its president since 2019, and has remained as a senior adviser even after graduating from university.

As an introvert, Rania shared that being part of an art club was never part of her plans, but when she became a member of OKIR, every single aspect of her life changed.

“I became more confident in myself. OKIR has helped me day by day in creating a better version of myself, [being part of the club] helped me learn, discover my talent, and develop it eventually. I realized that OKIR has been one of the most positive impact and aspects of my life now. OKIR taught me how to find beauty in ugliness and see ugliness in beauty, and made me appreciate the beauty and vibrant culture and traditions of my land; it made me embraced my identity as Moro. OKIR is not just a good platform for self-improvement; OKIR is like a home for most of the OKIR Members,” Rania said.

During the Art of Peace workshop at Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan de Oro, Sittie Rania shared their club’s desire to create storybooks to help make the youth in Marawi resilient to recruitment by paramilitary groups. They are currently developing a website library for the storybook they created. 

To discover more art from the OKIR art club, download their road map.

Marawi Sittie, 2018 by Ciarae Jan G. Fuentes She is Marawi City, and she could also be the Marawi Sittie. Sittie is the Maranao terminology of princess. The veil she is wearing represents the primary colors of the Philippine flag, but it could also be the reflection of the 2017 Marawi siege. Here eyes are sad, but despite the faded color around her, flower blooms as the symbol of hope. We all know that the window os someone’s soul is through his/her eyes, and as you can see, her sad eyes reflects the ruined Marawi City and the lost lives during the siege. Despite of what will happen, Marawi Sittie is still beautiful and brave.