My experience as an Artivist

Yllang Montenegro
Posted March 20, 2018 from Philippines
ABKD Babae Series
with Family
with Family (1/6)

I am a feminist and an art activist. I started to paint again last 2014 to use painting as my diary. I love painting my story, I paint out of frustration, hatred, sadness and the emotions I had, and have at present. I paint my experiences when I was a little girl, my teenage life, when I was working as an entertainer in Japan, the life I had when I was a migrant worker, when I lived alone raising two children, being a single mother in the land that treated me as an alien, that time when I had to fight for my son’s custody, to fight for my freedom from an unhappy marriage, my time when I was vulnerable with all the harrasment and violence. Until today I am still fighting for my freedom as a woman, campaigning for divorce law, for my children’s legal documentation and everything. So yes, a woman’s life is tough.

When I joined the organization batis-AWARE 2015, I heard a lot of stories, a powerful one, stories from a group of women age ranging from early 20’s up to late 60’s. I felt the same, I have the same situation, the same issues. From the first day I knew batis-AWARE I felt that I had to do something, I had to make these women with their children’s stories be heard. But how can I do that? I am not a writer.

One day while sitting and thinking which I usually do, I decided to paint women’s stories. I will call this “ABKD Babae series: Kwentong Buhay ng mga Pilipina” (ABCD women series: A life story of Filipino women). I started to paint not only the story of women in my organization but the stories of Filipino women. I started to see women who are currently working abroad, some are house wife, some are homeless, some are ex abroad workers, some are tricycle driver, some are single mother, some are widowed, but most of them has the same issue, abuse, violence on women and children, poverty, hopelessness, broken hearted and more. I come up with creating a series of women’s stories through the medium of painting.

The purpose of this project is to raise awareness on women’s issue, to uplift the lives of marginalized women, to empower women to educate people through art, help them understand the importance of women in the society.

In celebration of Women’s month I was invited to expose my paintings at LWUA Local Water Utilities Administration under GAD Gender and Development Office. I and a good friend who is also an extra multipotentialite person R.Z. organized the said event and we are thrilled to make it possible.

The day I am installing the paintings, I heard a lot of negative words about the paintings and the painter. four out of ten people, mostly are women said “the painter is obscene, nasty” , “the painting is ugly”, “why do you expose women’s body?”

That day I saw and realize how people easily judge art. It was hurtful but it was actually educational for me. I hope people will open their mind and heart about it, I hope women will start to embrace and love their flaws, their body, I hope women will start to accept that their body has so much potential rather than as a sexual object only.I hope people will stop body shaming, I hope people will start to recognize the importance of vagina, I hope people change their ways.

On Thursday March 22, LWUA-GAD wants me to pull out my paintings from their lobby, this is to end the what they say “sexuality” of my paintings, but for me and R. Z. we already made a decision to embrace all the negativity, we will use the experience positively, I know this is just the beginning of our advocacy.

Sharing here the pictures of the opening exibit event and also the paintings.


This story was submitted in response to You Are a Silence Breaker.

Comments 10

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Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Mar 20, 2018
Mar 20, 2018

This is sad. Why would they pull out your artworks? I guess our society is still too conservative that they feel harrassed to see such beautiful paintings.

Keep doing what you are passionate to do. Keep up being an ARTivist.

Jill Langhus
Mar 20, 2018
Mar 20, 2018

Oh Yllang:( That's too bad that you have to pull them out. Can you contest it? I can appreciate it's possibly more controversial to see these paintings if the audience is conservative and not prepared to see it, but we must start somewhere. I totally agree with you that people need to start to love their bodies and vagina, and to stop shaming. You are a visionary. Perhaps just now isn't your time; or maybe just not there. You will find another way and outlet. I believe in you!

Mar 20, 2018
Mar 20, 2018

I have always been a passionate advocate for creating and influencing social change through art and I think you are doing a fantastic job, Cecille; opening up a discourse around a subject that we hardly talk about. Keep doing what you are passionate about, not everybody would accept it, but it would be for those who your work is meant for, some solace and comfort.
Thank you for sharing your gift with the world.


Sally maforchi Mboumien
Mar 20, 2018
Mar 20, 2018

Making a difference must be treated in this way. When you are no in conformity with what society has laid as the standard only visionary people can understand you. I am greatly inspired by your work and I am confident many will be empowered through it someday really soon.#ETA for ever.

Mar 21, 2018
Mar 21, 2018

You are unique.
You are outstanding.
You stand out.
Don't dull yourself. Human beings can be overtly jealous. Leave them to their foolishness and keep on soaring. Love you my sweetest sister.

Mar 21, 2018
Mar 21, 2018

It is always good to use your gift and talents to help others

Soorya Gayathri
Mar 26, 2018
Mar 26, 2018

Thank you so much for sharing your story. This is a powerful story.

Tamarack Verrall
Mar 27, 2018
Mar 27, 2018

Dear Cecille,

You are such a gifted artist, and your paintings show so wonderfully the powerful and beauty we have as women, in a world which still expects us to hide ourselves, make ourselves quiet and small, feel shame instead of exultation at our extraordinary lives - female, with breasts, with vaginas through which all are born, our voluptuousness, all with deep thought, looking back at the world with the determination and wisdom that strong women carry. The shock waves of resistance show the power of your work. I hope that you continue to find walls on which your work can be displayed. Even for short times and even through criticism, you are becoming known, and even women afraid to speak out may be privately celebrating.

With love in sisterhood,

Phionah Musumba
Feb 19, 2019
Feb 19, 2019

They exposed the kind of people they are. Keep painting, Yllang

Jane Frances Mufua
Mar 06, 2019
Mar 06, 2019

Thanks for sharing your story