Teacher portal: 04 Trade Winds


In the 1940s in Manila a debate raged in the daily press about Modern art. Victorio Edades wanted to find a way “to blend and integrate all our impressions with our Oriental heritage and traditional Christian culture”. The Spanish had been in The Philippines for so long that Catholicism was a tradition for them.

Edades and his fellow artists also turned to pre-Hispanic imagery, inspired by the work of the Mexican muralists, particularly by the works of Diego Rivera. The sea trade routes to Philippines (and on China) went via South America, and ideas flowed with them.

Alison Carroll talks with Filipino artist Nune Alvarado about the relationship between politics and the Catholic imagery in his artwork.

Interviewees in this episode

Nune Alvarado – Philippines

Born in 1950, Nunelucio Alvarado lives in the Visayas, the islands of the central Philippines well known for growing sugar.  It was here in 1986, with two others, that he formed the Bacolod-based progressive group known as the Black Artists in Asia, focused on making artworks that focused on the lives – the joys and the trials – of the oppressed local farmers and fisherfolk.  His agrarian worker, or sakada, is portrayed as ‘squat, square-shoulder, and wide-eyed from hunger as much as from quiet desperation amid the sugarcane plantations of the landlord classes.’ (see http://artprojects.tripod.com/alvarado.htm).  The form of the figures, their frequent large scale depiction, and their subject-matter is reminiscent of similar works by the Mexican ‘renaissance’ artist Diego Rivera painted on the other side of the Spanish-dominated Pacific Ocean.

Questions raised in this episode

Scroll down for questions and resources

Question 1

The art of the independence movement of the Philippines gained inspiration from Diego Rivera’s political murals in South America where he employed pre-Hispanic figures and icons. What kind of potency is attached to imagery and how does this affect the viewer? When making ‘resistance’ art is it more potent to adopt the imagery of the oppressor or avoid it? Or both? What might determine this?


Philippine Triumvirate


Diego Rivera


Carlos V Francisco


Victorio C Edades


Filipino Independence movement


Battle of Manila (WW2)



Question 2

Nune Alvarado combines Christian iconography with the solidity and robustness of pre-Hispanic figures to paint his politically inspired portraits of his ‘special people’. The combination is fluid and powerful. In your own experience can you name a group or sub-group who you are familiar with and who are oppressed? What might be there iconography?


Land reform



Galleon Trade Route 1565-1815



Question 3

Should art reflect, record and/or critique the current political situation?