The artist Cian Dayrit has been arrested in the Philippines for his part in a protest.
On 9 June local members of MAKISAMA-Tinang, a peasant group, and their supporters participated in a bungkalan (collective farming) activity to assert their right to land in the town of Concepcion, Tarlac province. The event marks the 34th anniversary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, much criticised for its failure to redistribute private and public agricultural land to the benefit of small independent farmers.
Their action was violently dispersed by local police. 91 people, including Dayrit, were arrested and charges were made against 83 of those detained, citing illegal assembly and malicious mischief against 83 people. The police were called by a cooperative controlled by a powerful local politician who disputes the farmers’ land claims.
Dayrit’s embroidery work, which is currently included in the Biennale of Sydney, often addresses issues of land rights, colonialism and capitalism. The 2018 work, Tree of Death and Decay, featured the stitched outline of a tree annotated with various factors contributing to the subjugation of the poor: ‘captive market’, ‘food insecurity’, ‘imperialism’.
‘The history of the Philippines is a history of struggle between the ruling classes and the broad masses who are marginalised and systemically oppressed. In this context, one has to take on a side. By remaining neutral, you are naturally siding with the oppressive system,’ the artist told TL Magazine in February. ‘Peasants, workers, the urban poor and ethno-linguistic minorities all bear the brunt of centuries of abuse. We need to try to understand the structures in which culture, economics and politics function. My practice is activated by solidarity in the struggles of oppressed populations.’
Dayrit’s work also featured at the Kathmandu Triennale in Nepal earlier this year, and recent editions of the New Museum Triennial, the Berlin Biennale and the Gwangju Biennale.