Sunday, February 7, 2016

357. Igorot Art: MAN ON A CARABAO

There was a time that it was fashionable for every home to have a woodcarved souvenir from the northern highlands. Baguio in the 1930s had many homegrown shops that sold carved figures of wood, created by skilled, yet self-taught Igorot natives.
The best-sellers were the ubiquitous giant spoon and fork that hanged on dining room walls. Then, there were also the ethnic tribal busts, always carved in pair--an Igorot and an Igorota--hewn from medium and heavy wood. The spear-wielding full body carving of an Igorot headhunter holding the head of his dismembered victim, was also a favorite piece.This 1950s figure, showing a man astride a carabao,  is less commonly seen. It almost looks like a lowland Filipiniana piece, until one sees the rider dressed in loin-cloth, clearly a mountain man from Igorotlandia.
It is a meticulously crafted piece--from the facial detailing of the man with his saucer-bowl haircut, to the carabao's furry hide, accomplished  by scratching the body with thousands of shallow knife marks. Mid-century decorative pieces such as this have started appearing in antique stores, as more traditional ethnic carvings such become scarcer. They are still plentiful and cheap--but look for the ones made of heavy wood and with characteristic minute detailing. Commercial figural vintage Igorot carvings are the new "bulols"!

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