Louis Bretana

Blessed Art Thou By Heathen Gods

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The Spaniards used Catholicism as a colonial tool, a means to subvert the native Filipino into pious obedience to a white god and its chosen people. Through organised religion, the colonisers were able to demonise and effectively eradicate the local culture, world view and way of life. The continued existence of this colonial version of religion propagates an internalised racism and disdain for anything that isn’t aligned with Euro-western hetero-patriarchal normativity.

“Blessed Art Thou By Heathen Gods” is a prayer to the deities of precolonial Philippines. It aims for the suspension of righteous judgement based on the imposition of moral standards by a dominant monotheistic religious organisation. By sharing the blessings of a non-western belief system, I hope to demonstrate that no single religion has a monopoly on righteousness. While it can serve as someone’s personal guiding philosophy, it should never justify oppressive attitudes to people of other faiths.

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The sculptures and wearables are talismans to precolonial Philippine deities of the sun, the moon and the earth, and bestow a blessing:

  • Siyang yumuko pinagpala ni Apolaki (They who bowed, blessed art thou by Apolaki, the sun god of war, blessing you with victory, wisdom and strategy)
  • Siyang sumukob pinagpala ni Mayari (They who entered, blessed art thou by Mayari, the moon goddess, blessing you with protection, justice and equality)
  • Siyang lumuhod pinagpala ni Lakapati (They who knelt, blessed art thou by Lakapati, the hermaphrodite earth goddess of fertility, blessing you with fertility, providence and good fortune.)
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Louis Bretaña has a BFA from College of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines in addition to  a BFA Honours (First Class) from the ELAM School of Fine Arts in the University of Auckland, where he is finishing his Masters of Fine Arts. He had a long career as a Creative Director in the Philippine advertising industry before fate swept him to the shores of Aotearoa. Unable to continue his advertising career in his adopted home, he took it as an opportunity for reinvention. He is now on a voyage of rediscovering his love for his heritage and cultural identity and sees his emerging contemporary art practice as a tool for racial discourse; for advocating pride among people of colour and respectful cross-cultural engagement.


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