By |Published On: September 20th, 2016|Categories: Alumni|
by alumnus Michael M Gonzalez, EdD (ELC 2014)

Postcolonial societies face the daunting task of improving the quality of life of its constituents whose culture has been re-engineered to benefit colonial rule.

T'boli B.Fong weaving abaca fiber textile

T’boli B.Fong weaving abaca fiber textile

When the Philippines experienced 300 years of Spanish rule and another forty years of American rule, a diverse culture emerged containing in all aspects of social composition: multiple ethnicities with their own languages and cultural traditions that are faced by contemporary issues of poverty, social justice, and labor diaspora. Among the severely impacted are the indigenous peoples (IP) throughout the Philippine archipelago who exist in the periphery of the urban provincial centers. They exist as the irony of colonial history – as inspiration for indigenous “native” identities for nationhood and the same time the subject of center-periphery exploitation.

As sources of indigenous expressive culture unfettered by globalized consumer symbols, the indigenous communities struggle to keep their traditions alive amidst rapid urbanization and globalization.

One sign of this erasing force of urbanization/globalization is the decline of numerous of indigenous languages and with it, the slow disappearance of indigenous artisan practitioners. The net consequence will be the lost of indigenous knowledge and the broad categories of indigenous cognitive identity – medicinal plants and healing practices, expressive material culture and music, and human-environment relations. My research focuses on the “living traditions” and its sustainability in the context of globalizing forces. In particular, it will focus on indigenous artisan weavers who rely on plant fibers, natural dyes, and centuries-old techniques for the production of

Designer textile from pineapple fiber by Patis Tesoro

Designer textile from pineapple fiber by Patis Tesoro

textiles that are ethnolinguistically unique within the indigenous communities. IP artisans struggle to keep and maintain authenticity (e.g. hand-woven) of their work and are in danger of being overwhelmed by shoddily manufactured copies made for the tourist souvenir industry. While a local market for fine work is still viable from designers and collectors, to make their work economically sustainable with living wages, the IP weavers will need to find entry into fair trade markets, slow fashion, mainstream designer collectives, and evolve innovative processes. Fortunately, there are models that can be looked at. As a Fielding Educational Leadership for Change graduate, we have been imbued with the mindset of academic and practical research. This grant is a remarkable opportunity to practice what we at Fielding preach.

Michael M Gonzalez, EdD is a Fulbright Scholar for 2015-16. Dr. Gonzalez is conducting his research on sustainable incomes for indigenous weaving communities in the Philippines. The research will investigate the efforts by NGO’s, local/international governmental agencies and individuals in addressing these problems such as fiber plant cultivation, technology innovations, and coop strategies. He is the research/education director of The Hinabi Project (THP) based in San Francisco. THP is a 501c3 organization dedicated to spread public awareness of indigenous textile art. Currently, he is with the adjunct faculty of City College of San Francisco and University of San Francisco.

About the Author: Hilary Molina

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