Suit jacket, water buffalo hide, acrylic ink
In the 1800s Filipino men established a settlement called Manila Village in Bayou Barataria near the town of Jean Lafitte, Louisiana. It's inhabitants became known as Tagalas or Manilamen. Much later in the 1920s and 30s Filipino men began immigrating to America by ship from Hawaii and the Philippines to the West Coast. These waves of men, which include my father, are respectfully known as Manongs.
Working menial jobs, my father's generation were known for buying tailored suits despite low wages. In groups they would go out on the town dancing looking sharp, or as they would say, "dressed to kill!"
By using a suit jacket to create a gang-like vest, I'm attempting to connect the Manongs and the Manilamen. The vest is an intersection of sorts for these two generations or groups of Filipino immigrant men, and a way for me to honor and link my cultural history here in America.
The sleeves were cut off and patches, made from water buffalo hide, were sewn on the back. There are three patches, two with text in Tagalog that translate to Manilamen and Swamp Brother in English. The larger patch has a whimsical drawing of an alligator and monkey with knives in warrior stance. Using the hide from a beast of burden in the Philippines speaks to the enduring hardships of these men.
It was important that I complete the project at Bayou Barataria where Manila Village was once located. In a short performance wearing the vest, I looked out over the water imagining Manila Village then washed my hands in the bayou. This gesture was a simple ritual of acknowledgement to my cultural past and also it's historical relationship to the water and bayou.