I was enrolled in Mindanao Art, Literature and Music and the course required us to write a report about any of the above-mentioned topics. I decided to make a report on Norberto Monterona’s art. Monterona is a contemporary visual artist and social realist painter in Mindanao. My interview with Monterona was unstructured; I just prompted him to tell me about himself and his art. Succinctly, he described art as: “My art is my life, my culture and my struggle.”
The central thesis being explored by my research paper is Monterona’s art as mediating agency of Mindanao social realities. I have appropriated Alfred Gell’s anthropology of art as theoretical frame to ground this assertion. To quote Gell, “the anthropology of art focuses on the social context of art production, circulation and reception rather than the evaluation of particular works of art.”3 I am not an art critic, therefore, this paper is not a critical evaluation of Monterona’s paintings. Rather, my intention is to view Monterona’s art using as prism his reality while growing up in Bukidnon among the Lumads, his formal art training at Mindanao State University-Iligan, and his politicization as artist as he worked for Gabriela and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Mindanao.