The Hinabi Project Mountain Spirits: Textiles and Folk Arts of Cordillera and Ilokos

The Hinabi Project (THP), a project of the Philippine Writers and Artists, Inc. (PAWA), brings to San Francisco the distinctive styles of weaving from two regions physically separated by formidable mountain ranges and by their historical experiences. The common perception in colonial history was that Ilokos and the Cordillera shared little by way of its cultural products because the first was Christian, the latter animistic and pagan. Traditional weaving in the Cordillera was intricately a part of ritual life. Certain textiles embodied magical functions such as protection from harm, or symbolizing status and wealth. Important individuals known as kadangyan were buried with their prized blankets. It is said the more blankets, hence more thread counts, was a deterrent from malevolent spirits getting into the spirit of the deceased.

For the duration of the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade, the Ilokos was an important source of cotton fabric for naval sail. Native cotton grew in the lowlands for which Cordillera weavers would trade with their forest products. Undoubtedly, textile design ideas migrated as well and became part of the inabel Ilokos weaving repertoire. Cordillerans continued to weave their designs within their repertoire of ancestral motifs. These can be color band combinations, abstract peaks, human and animal figures. Ilokos inabel, on the other hand, has undergone a long process of secularization and, while vestiges of ritual wear might be displayed in Catholic religious festivities, its production is more mercantile than an assertion of ethnic identity. Nonetheless, Ilokos weavers have developed their inabel styles incorporating flowers, spirals, and geometric combinations, to name a few. Through its efforts, The Hinabi Project brings this exhibit to San Francisco to display the rare artisanal weaving from both traditions and to suggest, if not show, that traditional artistic ideas and motifs can be bridged with contemporary design.

This exhibit is part of a rotating exhibition program sponsored by The Mills Building for the pleasure of its tenants and visitors. The rotating exhibition program brings the arts into The Mills Building’s business environment and provides a window into the artistic and cultural organizations of the Bay Area. The intent of these exhibitions is to build bridges of understanding between business and cultural communities. These exhibits are curated by Artsource Consulting. For more information please call 415.399.0333, ext 15. The Mills Building is located at 220 Montgomery Street, M–F, 8 am to 6 pm.