Jan Nica Ilao
BA (Hons) Fine Art

Jan Nica Ilao

Bahay nga Bato

The tribal heritage of the Visayan Pintados in the Philippines, although long drowned in history by the blood of natives, spilled by centuries of War and Conquisition. It still rears it’s head through the modern colonised surface of the country. This is particularly exposed in rural small villages, one of which I grew up in. As a child I absorbed these tribal essences in the forms of patterns and objects, something I would soon forget as I acclimated to the UK at the age of six. I slowly lost the familiarity of my heritage. Perhaps, in the same way as my ancestors, who adapted to the culture of the Spanish Conquistadors, I adapted to the council estates and crime riddled streets of Stafford.

The UK took away my accent and now I stand in the foreign nationals queue at the Manila International Airport when coming home to my family and the village that raised me. The immigrant status, forced upon me, is not a crime. It hasn’t made me any less Filipino than my ancestors. It’s also wrong to say that I don’t identify as British. The tribal tattoo patterns I saw are now replaced by graffiti and tagging. The tsinelas (slippers) I wore and played with are now a pair of sneakers bought with the money earned by the hands of my parents. They worked day and night in an unfamiliar country as they’re thrusted into poverty driven responsibilities, chained to them by their family.

The struggle and combination of tribalism and street culture is a portrait of me in the present, past and future, painted by circumstance and history. A yearning for a space where two worlds coexist, akin to a video game, metaphysical in it’s space and devoid of reality. A dream I often get lost in. 

Being caught in the crosshairs of my longing to be back at home when I’m already home bound. I’ve made it my own. I choose to have both. I choose to actualise my unconscious.