Material things always make statements about people’s identities. For indigenous Filipino men, making baskets asserts identities rich in culture and in non-market values. This article examines basketry backpacks that were part of the pre-colonial material culture of ethnic groups known as Igorot. When made from rattan, these baskets are recognized as tribal art or heritage items. When made from plastic by contemporary artisans, they are problematic objects that subvert dominant constructs of masculinity. Featuring bright colours – pink, red and yellow – from the detritus of goldmining, these basketry forms point to the plasticity of masculinity itself. By working in plastic, their makers appropriate the cultural history of plastic to subvert the constructions of authenticity, class, ethnicity and gender, suggesting how masculinity could be otherwise. Here, plastic has a cultural potency of its own, with important implications for initiatives to manage or recycle waste materials or create innovative design. Because plastic carries its problematic history and malleability into the objects made from it in ways that reshape categories of meaning and subjectivities, plastic is never just a neutral substrate for artisans’ self-expression but the active co-producer of dynamic distinctions between sacred and profane, global and indigenous, that fold back in on each other.
Journal of Material Culture – SAGE
Published: Jun 1, 2018