How do artists become political prisoners? A new project in the Philippines examines how art has been used as a political weapon throughout the course of history.

A caricature of the current regime in the Philippines

A caricature of the current regime in the Philippines during a Human Rights Report spearheaded by KARAPATAN, a human rights group in the Philippines.

Dr. Rommel Rodriguez of the University of the Philippines Diliman examines the historical and cultural context of art work produced by artists who were once, or are currently detained as political prisoners in the Philippines. The project details the diachronic and synchronic discourse of art as a political weapon according to the flow of history, particularly in terms of politicization of artists and writers.

Using art as a looking glass, Dr Rodriguez hopes to address contemporary issues in Philippine society. His research is the first of its kind in the Philippines to examine the dialectical relationship between the art piece and political ideology of artists who experience(d) political persecution and unlawful detention.

Picture of Ericson Acosta

Ericson Acosta, a political prisoner currently detained in Calbayog Sub-Provincial Jail in Samar, Philippines. Ericson is a former culture editor of the Philippine Collegian, the official student paper of the the University of the Philippines, Diliman. He is an activist poet, a playwright, theater actor, singer and composer. He continues to write poetry and songs of protest while in jail. Some of his writings are collected in a cd-album entitled "Prison Sessions."

The Philippines went through long periods of colonialism, martial rule, and countless human rights violations. However, the history of political prisoners is given little or no attention in academic discourse or even in mainstream media. By highlighting the experience of politicized artists behind bars Dr Rodriguez hopes to bring attention to their plight.

There will be two project outputs: a monograph that deals with the historical mapping of prisons in the Philippines and documentation of political artists from the Spanish colonial period, American colonial period, Post World War II (Commonwealth period), and the Martial Law period up to contemporary times. In addition, there will be a video-documentary focusing on three artist-political prisoners currently detained in different prisons in the Philippines.

This project is funded by the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Research and Development under its PhD Incentive Award Program.

For further information contact:

Dr. Rommel Rodriguez
Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature
College of Arts and Letters
University of the Philippines