Launch Photo Exhibition Living amongst the Dead: Disparity in Manila North Cemetery by Eva Rapoport
April 21 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
On 21 April at 5 PM - 6.30 PM SEA Junction will address a somewhat “dark” topic giving a glimpse of the cemetery slums of Manila with the launch of a photo exhibition “Living amongst the dead: Disparity in Manila North Cemetary by photographer and researcher Eva Rapoport. The exhibition to last until 29 April at our location will expose photographs taken by the photographer in May 2017.
Most of the Asian big cities represent some peculiar patchwork of luxury and extreme poverty, but probably nowhere else the opposites are so vivid and so intertwined as in Manila North Cemetery. Vast burial ground with over a hundred years of history serves as a final resting place for several Philippines’ presidents and many historical figures, yet it is also a home for over 2000 living people. So, unique architecture, stone carvings and crosses, whipping angels and contemplating Madonnas are seen side-by-side with the most mundane goods and chattels: laundry dried over figured railings, mattresses, plastic bags and buckets and water basins.
Manila North Cemetery is not just a refuge for those who have nowhere else to live, it is a vibrant community with most of the social and economic activities some regular neighborhood would have: public transportation (famous Philippine ‘jeepneys’) and private motorbike taxies, numerous food stalls, beauty parlors, sports and entertainment: from basketball and gambling to billiard and internet-cafe. Kids play around the tombs, fly kites, climb trees – in a sense their leisure time seems happier and healthier than of many modern urban kids spending most of the time immersed into their electronic devices, but what kind of future they might have without a school to attend? Many of the families inhabiting lavish mausoleums actually serve as their caretakers and have to vacate the cemetery on particular holidays when the rich families come to pay annual respects to their dead; other cemetery-dwellers offer their services as informal tour guides helping anyone interested to see the most remarkable tombs and retaining oral history of the area.
Although most of the Filipinos, from taxi drivers to university professors believe in ghosts and spirits and are eager to engage in a conversation about them, the North Cemetery dwellers present a rare exception: for them dead are not a source of fear and danger but more of a reason they have at least some kind of roof over their heads and a chance to make a living.
At the opening, renown sociologist Mary Racelis will give a talk on “”Dead or Alive, the Poor Sustain the City!” on urban poverty and poor resistance, which will serve to contextualize the visual documentation of life in the cemetery. The photographer will also provide some background information about her work and interests and we will show a short documentary on this subject.
Eva Rapoport is a photographer, journalist and researcher currently residing in Thailand. She focuses her attention on traditional performing arts and spirit possession practices and she has previously exhibited at SEA on Javanese trance dance kuda kepang. These photos, taken on May part of a project about cemeteries around the world, will be exhibited in the same location next April.
Dr. Mary Racelis is a Research Scientist at the Institute of Philippine Culture, School of Social Sciences, Ateneo de Manila University, and its former Director. Her teaching activities as a social anthropologist include Senior Professorial Lecturer at the Ateneo’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the University of the Philippines Graduate School. She serves on several NGO Boards, mostly partner support groups to organized urban poor communities. Her research has focused on urbanization, urban informal settlements and community organizing for onsite/incity relocation. In addition, she has written on poverty, gender, children, family, reproductive health, indigenous people, human rights and socio-cultural change. From 1983-1992 she was the Nairobi-based UNICEF Regional Director, Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office after having served as the UNICEF Senior Policy Specialist for Family Welfare, Women’s Development and Community Participation in New York 1979-83. She returned to the Philippines to become the Ford Foundation’s Country Director/Assistant Representative 1992-97. At the invitation of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, she became an active member in 2003—04 of his Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations—Civil Society Relations. She is proudest of her five children, 13 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild.
See selected photos:
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About SEA Junction, OUR Venue on Southeast Asia
SEA Junction aims to foster understanding and appreciation of Southeast Asia in all its socio-cultural dimensions –from arts and lifestyles to economy and development. Conveniently located at Room 408 of the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre or BACC (across MBK, BTS National Stadium) SEA junction facilitates public access to knowledge resources and exchanges among students, practitioners and Southeast Asia lovers. For more information see www.seajunction.org and join the Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/1693055870976440/