Pancouver-Logo

Become a Cultural Navigator

Become a Cultural Navigator

Artist Lani Maestro’s her name draws attention to former domestic worker Mary Jane Veloso, who remains jailed in Indonesia

her name by Lani Maestro
Pampanga’s Best Cafeteria at 4279 Fraser Street is one of several sites exhibiting her name.

There’s an unusual work of art on display at several locations in East Vancouver. Artist Lani Maestro’s her name simply says “Mary Jane” beside a QR code. The piece refers to Mary Jane Veloso, a former domestic worker from the northern Philippines now jailed in Indonesia. The QR code takes viewers to the story of Veloso, which has drawn tremendous attention from human rights groups.

Maestro’s her name work is part of HOHOL (Hang Out Hang Out Lang), an exhibition of Filipino Canadian artists at grunt gallery. Curated by Patrick Cruz and Christian Vistan, participating artists include Christopher Baliwas, Trisha Baga, Ella Gonzales, Ramolen Laruan, Manuel Ocampo, and Thea Yabut. There are also works by Cruz and Vistan as well as a text by Patrick Flores.

Other versions of Maestro’s her name can be seen in Vancouver-Kensington NDP MLA Mable Elmore’s constituency office, Pampanga’s Best Cafeteria (4279 Fraser Street), St. Mary the Virgin Anglican church (808 East 50th Avenue), and Bahay Migrante in the basement of 4794 Fraser Street.

Maestro, a Canadian from the Philippines, has gained international acclaim for integrating text in art to address human suffering. Urban Art Projects included one of her works, No Pain Like This Body, on its list of 12 standout public art projects of 2023. This piece was featured in a Vancouver Art Gallery Offsite exhibition in 2022 and 2023.

her name Mable Elmore
Migrante Canada executive committee member Erie Maestro and NDP MLA Mable Elmore stand beside her name in Elmore’s constituency office.

Maestro’s her name boosts prisoner’s profile

Meanwhile, Maestro’s sister, Erie Maestro, is on the executive committee of Migrante Canada. It promotes migrants’ rights and tries to strengthen unity among the Filipino diaspora.

In an interview with Pancouver, Erie says that Mary Jane was arrested in 2010 on charges of alleged drug trafficking.

“She was a victim of human trafficking and drug trafficking because she was handed a suitcase by this ‘friend’, who was an illegal recruiter, and promised a job in Indonesia,” Erie insists.

When Mary Jane arrived in Jakarta, her bag was checked. Officials found a large shipment of heroin underneath the lining of the suitcase. According to Erie, Mary Jane professed her innocence but because Indonesia has strict laws against illegal drugs, she was still imprisoned.

“Then in 2015—five years after—she was sentenced to die by execution,” Erie says.

More than 444,000 people signed a change.org online petition. It appeals to Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, for clemency and a pardon for Mary Jane.

In response to this international pressure, the Indonesian government decided at the last minute not to execute Mary Jane by firing squad in 2015.

“Out of eight who were supposed to be executed that day, she was the only one who was given a reprieve,” Erie says. “But that was a reprieve. She went back on death row.”

her name grunt gallery
The grunt gallery is exhibiting her name as part of HOHOL (Hang Out Hang Out Lang).

Mary Jane receives reprieve from execution

The case took another turn in 2020. Two people who had illegally recruited Mary Jane were convicted and imprisoned in the Philippines.

According to Erie, Mary Jane still remains in jail in Indonesia. However, her many supporters feel that she’s innocent of any crime.

“Our question is if your recruiters are in jail for doing that, why are you still on death row, and sentenced to be lined up against the wall and shot?” Erie says. “That is the campaign now of a lot of people.”

Mary Jane Veloso’s case continues generating media coverage in the Philippines.

Erie adds that she has discussed this case with her sister, Lani, who divides her time between Canada and France. This motivated Lani to create her name to draw attention to Mary Jane’s plight.

“It starts a conversation,” Erie says.

in her name
Erie Maestro points to her sister’s artwork at St. Mary the Virgin Anglican church.

There’s also an offsite extension of the HOHOL exhibition on the Emily Carr Urban Screen in the Wilson Arts Plaza. It features Lani Maestro’s text-oriented STILL until until July 14. It was originally commissioned for a poster billboard in Toronto in 2002.

This time, the public can see STILL in a new digital context.

“Maestro’s work has often taken the form of images that become embodied in the process of reading or utterance,” the grunt gallery states on its website, “and STILL exemplifies the artist’s inquiries into language, the body and subjectivity.”

STILL

The grunt gallery is presenting HOHOL (Hang Out Hang Out Lang) until August 17. For more information, visit the website. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

Take Action Now

Pancouver fuels creativity and promotes a more inclusive society. You can contribute to support our mission of shining a spotlight on diverse artists. Donations from within Canada qualify for a tax receipt.

Share this article

Picture of Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

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

Subscribe

Tags

Related Articles

The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

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

The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

© 2023 The Society of We Are Canadians Too Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions

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.