Work by Nica Aquino at Irenia Restaurant


Works from Nica Aquino’s ‘Memory Room,’ on view at Irenia Restaurant, May-October 2019 .
Interactive Altar Installation, Mixed Media, Textile, Natural Materials, 35mm Photos & Video.

Since 2016, I've been creating mixed media altar installations & textiles that examine loss & memory as an Ilokana in the US diaspora. My last mixed media altar installation in 2017, titled ‘Saan Kayo Nga Nalipatan (You Are Not Forgotten)’ addressed the extrajudicial killings happening in the Philippines, ordered by Rodrigo Duturte, elected president of the islands in 2016. Through this altar installation, I mourn my Manong (older brother), who was a victim of the killings, and call attention to the lives taken by this violation of human rights. 

In the summer of 2018, I returned to my ancestral homeland of La Union, Ilokos, Philippines after over 23 years. During this visit, I spent a month connecting with the natural landscapes and intimate spaces once inhabited by passed loved ones & ancestors. I collected memories through natural materials gleaned from the land, as well as created video & photographs interlaced with nostalgia & longing, to create ‘Memory Room.’ 

There is an old proverb in Ilokano that goes, ‘No saan nga makaammo nga nangtaliaw ti naggapuanna, saan a makadanon ti papananna.’ (One who does not look back to their origins will not reach their destination.) During my visit home, I learned more about the origins of certain ancestral practices that honor the dead, such as the atang -- an offering or ofrenda -- as well as the significance of offering specific items such as basi (sugar cane wine originated from Ilokos & the Cordilleras in the Northern Philippines). Having lived a majority of my life in the US, my intention when I returned home was to reconnect with this lost part of my identity; a loss that is a result of US colonization of the Philippines, historical erasure & inevitable migration.

Memory Room’ provided a meditative atmosphere for visitors to reflect & pray, as they contributed personal items &/or letters & notes written on paper boats, that were attached to a river-like handmade textile based altar. I am of Ilokano descent; Ilokano means ‘people from the coastal or riverine lowlands.’ Creating a body of water is significant in representing my origins as an Ilokana & the large bodies of water Ilokanos are known for residing by. As the boats flowed down the river, visitors' messages descended into the spirit world, reaching passed loved ones & honoring the memories of our ancestors.

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