Art/Style/Travel Diaries

Filipino scholar in US creates coconut fiber sculpture

'The more we are aware that things will end, the more we cherish them'—Razel Mari on the impermanence of his work

Razel Mari with Sita

Filipino product designer Razel Mari has created a coconut fiber sculpture to represent the concept of impermanence.

Dubbed as Sita, from the Filipino word bisita (visitor), the piece encapsulates the experiences of the 26-year-old Fulbright Silvermine Program artist-in-residence at the prestigious Silvermine Arts Center (SAC) in Connecticut, USA.

Sita, a sculpture derived from the Filipino word ‘bisita’ (visitor), is made of coconut fibers, sticks and twine.

It reflects his thoughts during his stay in the historic neighborhood close to nature, as well as the various life forms that strayed to his studio. “The serene area surrounded by woods, and a pond made it possible for different creatures to visit me while I was working there,” he recalled.

To capture what is ephemeral, the innovator utilized natural materials and seamlessly wove coconut fibers, sticks and twines found in the forest, to build this gathering of his unexpected guests.

Razel learned the fundamentals and techniques of weaving from the master artisans of Pulilan, Bulacan.

The Industrial Design graduate of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) used coconut fibers as primary medium, which are found and widely used in the Philippines. The coconut fibers brought him fond memories of home.

               The artist with his ephemeral work

The finished work has the body and hind legs of a deer, the talons of a heron, and the slender neck of a fisher. A polished soapstone fragment served as its eyes.

During his residency, he finished experimentations, such as a dainty soapstone bird and wheel-thrown ceramic ware. “Being aware of my limited time there made me reflect on life. The more we are aware that things will end, the more we cherish them,” he said.

Given the temporary nature of the work itself, he explained that it is a reminder for us to embrace the transience of things. “As Sita is in the outdoors, it will slowly be taken by the earth,” he said. “Whether by passive elements, to include rain, the sun, or snow, or by active means, such as birds using the fibers for their own nests, the entire structure will be part of the ecosystem it occupies.”

The Fulbright Silvermine Program is a flagship educational and cultural exchange effort managed by the non-profit organization International Institute of Education (IIE).

The academic initiative granted Razel Mari the opportunity to attend classes and access the outstanding facilities of SAC for his creative, intellectual, and professional growth. He had the opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary projects with the faculty and the prominent mentors of the institution.

He said that he enjoyed creating artwork to open conversations about realities, usually through fun and humor, and advised his fellow designers that learning is a lifetime process and a humbling quest.

“We live in a beautiful world that’s always full of wonderful surprises; we just need to be open to it,” he added.

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