Rodel Tapaya’s works have long drawn from the rich pre-colonial mythology of the Philippines, harnessing the fables, folklore and legends of the many indigenous groups that once existed across the archipelago. These stories were often origin tales, relating how fire, water or animals came into being, or how a local landmark got its name. Transmitted orally – often told by an elder to a child – many of these stories were lost or forgotten during the period of western colonial rule, until more recent attempts to record them in printed word or in image. Here, Tapaya has shaped the dioramas with pointed tops and raised corners, with the form akin to a house on stilts, or a retablo (a devotional piece behind an altar).
The Wise Monkey and the Foolish Giant is a folktale about how a small animal outsmarts a much bigger creature. The scene shows the monkey tying the giant to a tree, having tricked the giant into believing that was the only way to survive an impending storm.
Rodel Tapaya (b. 1980, Montalban, Philippines) is a widely recognised artist in Southeast Asia today. Working in media ranging from monumental paintings to intricate sculptures and traditional craft, Tapaya creates work that synthesises folk narratives, pre-colonial historical research and contemporary reality within the framework of memory and history. Tapaya exhibits extensively across the region and won the Grand Prize of the APB Foundation Signature Art Prize in 2011. He lives and works in Bulacan, Philippines.
Rodel Tapaya gained notable recognition early in his practice, for his “narrative paintings” that proffered a contemporary imaging of Philippine indigenous myths and pre-colonial legends. As morality tales, the stories in Tapaya’s works are also rife with metaphor, imbued with social critique of problems that ail his home country.