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Artist Khim Hipol invokes feelings of resistance and patriotism in Capture Photography Festival exhibition

Khim Hipol
Buy-buy is part of the Anak ng Lupang Hinirang series by Khim Hipol.

Vancouver lens-based artist Khim Hipol says that he creates art to advance education.

He has a straightforward motivation. Hipol worries that too many children of Filipino immigrants don’t understand the national symbols of the Philippines or the country’s history of resistance.

So he set out to elevate awareness through his Anak ng Lupang Hinirang (Child of the Chosen Land) series. It shows parts of his body hidden by a flag, mango, Bible, crown, and soft broom known as a walis tambo.

The latter two images also appear in the free Here and Now exhibition in the Pendulum Gallery (885 West Georgia Street). Curated by Emmy Lee Wall and Chelsea Yuill, it continues until April 28 as part of the Capture Photography Festival.

“My grandmother was a teacher and she loved visual aids,” Hipol tells Pancouver by phone. “She loved photographic work, drawings, and anything that’s illustrative.”

With his photographs, Hipol hopes to encourage people to critically engage with the symbols, which have often been derived from colonizers. It’s a mix of patriotism and resistance—two sentiments close to Hipol’s Filipino heart.

“We are free from colonizers and yet also culturally, we are so embedded to them,” Hipol says. “We love westerners—we love foreigners, basically.”

Khim Hipol
Khim Hipol won the Audain Travel Prize last year.

Moreover, he’s concerned that standards of taste and acceptance within the Philippines reflect colonizers’ views rather than emerging from what’s inherently Filipino.

“Even the Philippines name is a colonizer’s name,” Hipol adds, referring to King Philip II of Spain.

In the Here and Now exhibition, he’s included a photo of himself obscured with a Canadian flag over his head. A similar image with the flag of the Philippines is part of the Anak ng Lupang Hinirang series.

Kim Hipol
Kim Hipol likes using a dark background to offer more definition to his images.

Hipol uses flag to symbolize lost identity

He points out that both countries have been marked by colonialism. The British Crown loomed large over Canada, whereas the Spanish Crown imposed its will on the Philippines until the late 19th century.

After the Spanish-American War, the U.S. took possession of the archipelago, retaining it as a territory. The country didn’t achieve true independence until the Japanese were defeated in the Second World War.

“In the Philippines when someone who has worked for the government has passed away—like soldiers and government officials—they drape the flag over their coffin to cover it,” Hipol says. “So, I’m trying to mimic that in a commemorative remembrance of this identity.”

He chose a high-key background for his flag images. He says it’s because this is often used to advertise luxury items. A white backdrop, on the other hand, would have been too clinical and anthropological, in his view.

“I was getting in that language of studio photography,” Hipol explains.

Next month, Hipol will graduate from Emily Carr University of Art + Design with a bachelor of fine arts degree. Last year, he won the 2022 Audain Travel Award, which came with a $7,500 cheque, for Anak ng Lupang Hinirang.

He’s come a long way from his childhood in the midsized city of San Fernando in Central Luzon. According to Hipol, his fellow Filipinos mostly thought of visual art in relation to paintings rather than photography.

korona
Kim Hipol’s korona (crown) is part of the Anak ng Lupang Hinirang series.

Resistance heroes inspire artist

At the age of 15, Hipol moved to the City of North Vancouver with his family. He developed a passion for lens-based art while doing photojournalism in high school. His parents worked as cleaners.

In fact, Hipol says that the “cleaning identity” is something that Filipinos have taken on in Canada. And this is why he commemorated it with the image of the large soft broom in the Here and Now exhibition.

When asked for an artistic inspiration, Hipol cites South African nonbinary photographer and visual activist Zanele Muholi. Muholi’s work celebrates different gendered, sexual, and racial communities, even incorporating subjects’ voices into exhibitions and events. Hipol admires how Muholi includes objects of resistance into images.

In addition, Hipol has tremendous respect several people in Philippines history who’ve resisted colonial aggression. One of them is the warrior Lapulapu. This Mactan chief in the Visayan Islands defeated Spanish invaders in 1521 led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.

Another of Hipol’s heroes is Diego Silang, an 18th-century revolutionary leader who fought to overthrow the Spanish in the northern Philippines. Silang allied his forces with the British in establishing an independent Ilocano state. Like Silang, Hipol’s first language is Ilocano.

Silang ended up being assassinated by a Spanish-Ilocano mestizo paid by church authorities.

Another revolutionary leader was Andrés Bonifacio y de Castro, one of the founders of the 19th-century Katipunan independence movement.

Also known as the Kataastaasan Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng Mga Anak ng Bayan, it started what became known as the Tagalog Revolution.

“Bonifacio started the KKK, which is a good thing in the Philippines—not here!” Hipol says with a lighthearted laugh.

The Capture Photography Festival presents Here and Now at the Pendulum Gallery until Friday (April 28). For more information, visit the festival website. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.