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Filipina anthropreneur Venazir Martinez weaves Duke into a global red thread

Filipina street muralist Venazir Martinez recently visited Duke's campus for the opening of an exhibition in the John Hope Franklin Center art gallery featuring selections from her work. The event was part of a celebration of Filipino American History Month.

The exhibition, part of "Hilabana: Espasyo Temporal," delves into the dynamics of human interaction, dispersion, and identity formation across space and time. The intention is to create a psychogeographic map that captures the essence of contemporary Filipino indigenous and diasporic identities-within this temporal expanse, shared memories and collective experiences meld, forming the foundation of their shared identity.

Emerging from the Hila-bana street art movement that started in 2018 in Baguio City, Philippines, "Hila-bana" is rooted in the Tagalog term "hilbanahan," meaning temporary stitching. It embodies the symbiotic journey of individuals of diverse ethnicities. The pulang sinulid, or red thread, analogous to the DNA that runs through our veins, becomes a vital strand intertwining with our indigenous traditions, echoing the threads that course through the heart of our ancestral heritage. Across lived spaces, the subjects weave tales of cultural exchange, their footprints retracing the rhythm of urbanity and the ever-evolving movement of its inhabitants.

On October, 6th, the gallery was open for the public to view the artist's work enjoy a reception with live music featuring West Oxking. Dr. Anna Storti provided a thoughtful introduction of Ms. Martinez, followed by an artist talk and Q & A.

The event was co-sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Asian American & Diaspora Studies (AADS) program with additional support from Duke Pamilya.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Martinez collaborated with a local artist, Karen Lynch Harley, on a mural project highlighting the threads that connect art and artistic sensibility across cultures.

Members of the Duke community, including area residents, were invited to the John Hope Franklin Center on Saturday, October 7, to see their work in progress. The following day, public was able to view the completed paintings in the John Hope Franklin Center main gallery.

The complete exhibition, including the new mural paintings, will remain on display in the Gallery at the John Hope Franklin Center through the end of October 2023.

About the artists:

Venazir Martinez is a Filipino visual anthropreneur, and a street muralist. She graduated cum laude with a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts from the University of the Philippines Baguio. She was awarded Best Thesis through her art and advocacy entitled Hila-bana. This street art hunt challenged the public's visual perception through cultural emblems to revitalize Filipino ancestral heritage.

Martinez's creations are deeply influenced by the stories of people she encountered during her creative journey. Her artworks portray realistic depictions of individuals from diverse cultures, rendered in a fragmented and animated style. This approach, Progressive Abstract Realism, captures the intricate layers of our identities and the factors that have molded our fundamental values as a nation.

Venazir's profound fascination with identity formation became her spiritual quest and life's purpose, compelling her to redefine the myriad meanings of "Filipino" by interweaving the red thread, one wall at a time.

Karen Lynch Harley is a Native American Artist. She is a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe of North Carolina. Her work is inspired by her love of life and culture and usually tells a story. She believes art is therapy for the body and soul and enjoys sharing her gift with others to help them find their inner gifts and spirit. She pulls from her own roots to create art in a variety of art mediums.

Karen’s work has been received nationally and internationally. Her work has been featured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles regarding her art and devotion to teaching others how to release their creativity through art.

Karen has recently completed several outdoor murals in Halifax County, North Carolina for the Ed Fitts Charitable Foundation; the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation and the University of Maryland, College Park Campus.

Karen has also illustrated two story books. One for the Piscataway Indians of Maryland and one a story she created herself for children.