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For a culture-bearer, indigenous knowledge is not knowledge about his

or her culture. It is culture itself, the ways of their ancestors a living
thing that you cannot split from the person. You are born with it. You
are born into it. It is you. Inseparable from you like the shadow from a
It is:
...a disposition to see and do things in a certain way, even if
everybody around sees and does things otherwise....
....It is the lifestyle of those whose and worldview anchors in ancestral
Indigenous Knowledge Systems & Practices (IKSP).
The term culture-bearer can be traced to crowded Europe where many
different cultures mingle. The German term Kultur Traeger connotes
a pillar of culture, as well as someone who carries on a cultural
tradition. The Swedish word kulturbrer, would stand for the same
thing. Referring to a homogenous culture spreading across a whole
continent, Robert Pirsig wrote in his new afterword for his classic, Zen
and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: The concept would not have
much American use, although it should have.
In terms of definition, the concept culture bearer is still a frontier,
but it has been used and abused since Pirsigs afterword.
The Philippine National Commission on Culture and Arts defines a
culture bearer as an individual who is recognized to possess the skills
and techniques in doing a particular traditional art or craft.
3) What is a Culture-Bearing Artist?
The NCCA defines a culture-bearer as an individual who is recognized to possess
the skills and techniques on doing a particular art or craft. Just like the Schools of
Living Traditions, culture-bearing artists play an active role in the preservation of
indigenous culture. They continue ancient traditions and forms and use techniques
handed down for many generations. Their works bear the signs and symbols of a
long and early narrative, still strong although now almost lost in whispers.


These culture-bearers instead draw their strength and inspiration from
tribal art forms. This is apparent not only in their ethnic motifs and

themes, but especially in their unique holistic art-making process.

Creations are inspired by and contextualize ancestral Filipino traditions
like functional art, trance dance, audience participation, ephemeral artform such as performance and installations, or unstructured music like
monotonous drumming.
Their works tend to be contemplative, commemorative and
ceremonial. Culture-bearer artists treat their pieces frequently as an
offering that can be sacrificed or destroyed in what to others may
appear as the mood of a moment. If secular, the works of culturebearer artists are often functional, instructional, or aiding the
community building process; including activities that bring people
together, rouse awareness and awaken collective memories. Such art
is usually presented for free, given away, or bartered.
Filipino culture-bearing artists are driven by kapwa and their different
ethnic, educational and social origins are set aside by their being
kapwa Filipino, kapwa tao and kapwa nilalang.
They look at art as a vehicle to communicate socially relevant ideas.
This understanding of art reflects an ancient Filipino notion that art is a
prayer or the dance of the diwata, the spirit forms that inhabit all living
Culture-bearer artists create their art of whats available around them.
Art from nothing, so to speak. A piece of driftwood, for example, is
turned into an instrument, an empty oil container into a lamp, and so
on. Even their houses are built along seemingly unstructured rhythms.
In this, too, they emulate their inspiration, the Living Traditions of the
Philippines. And like the lumads, it is through the ongoing practice of
their art that they achieve pakikiisa (unity) with the world around them
and their creator.
The art of culture-bearer artists is communal. In line with their
orientation, their work unfolds full meaning in the context of people
and communities. It is not an art for arts sake or for collectors only.
These are artists who do not thrive on awards but rather on karangalan
which is defined by Virgilio Enriquez as the inner strength of a person
that allows him to face the rich and the mighty with confidence and
Above all, culture-bearing artists cherish freedom, independence and
liberty (kalayaan), like their nomadic ancestors. For society they may
be non-conformists, but their art rules their daily activities.