Power to the People — 12.03.2020

When Papaya turned 10 in 2010, it was difficult figuring out how we could commemorate such a milestone. Founded in 2000, Papaya has surely gone beyond the usual lifespan of an artists-run initiative and though short on cash, it had enough energy and motivation then to run for a number of years more. Certainly, that called for a big celebration. But with no extra money to spend on the event, we resigned to gather around a kitchen dinner and a few rounds of drinks.

Unexpectedly, the universe had other plans for us. We got invited to participate in "No Soul for Sale: Festival of Independents" from May 14 to 16, 2010 at the Tate Modern. The Papaya community practically funded our trip to London. As if that was not enough, Papaya was again invited to participate in "Night Festival: New World 2010" from July 16 to 17 in Singapore. With an entourage of 20 Manila-based artists and crew, we were given a space at the National Museum Singapore to mount performances and screenings for two nights. This time, our trip was generously funded by the Singapore government. We were dumbfounded by the turn of events.

2020 is now coming to an end. Since the beginning of this year, I have been attempting to come up with a meaningful way to celebrate Papaya’s 20 years. This will be its last full year after all. But tragedies like the global pandemic, the passing of loved ones, the fire that razed our space, and, very recently, the painful dis-association with a former Papaya colleague overtook any plan to take shape.

Though it may be late, this December, we were determined to celebrate. So, we invited artists and friends to design Papaya 20/20 commemorative posters. With 20 artists contributing, the complete series is still a work-in-progress. But before that is even completed, the universe just gave us another surprise.

We are grateful and humbled to announce that Green Papaya Art Projects made it to ArtReview's Power 100 for 2020.

“Global issues of political and climate justice, meanwhile, are the foundations of the work of collectives Forensic Architecture (14) and Feral Atlas (15). In a year in which the artworld’s established structures have proved to be less than stable, the collaborative, improvised and more rapidly responsive structures of the global south and areas outside of the traditional centres of artworld activity are also increasingly influential: be it the Dhaka Art Summit, founded and run by Nadia Samdani, Rajeeb Samdani & Diana Campbell Betancourt (41), Hungary’s anti-institutional OFF-Biennale, founded by Hajnalka Somogyi (96) or the Manila-based artist-run space Green Papaya Art Projects (99), which closes this year. And faced with the economic ravages of the pandemic on the precarious livelihoods of many artists, the list notes the commitment to supporting artists shown by individuals such as Matthew Burrows (37) in the UK, and Cosmin Costinas (38) in Hong Kong.” (from “Black Lives Matter Tops 2020 Edition of ArtReview’s Annual Power 100”)

Never in our wildest dreams could we have thought that we would make the list. It seems that the “Death is a Portal” campaign that we launched at the height of extreme lockdown in Metro Manila last May caught the eyes of the ArtReview Asia editors, and eventually, the Power 100 Jury. Papaya persisting in the shadows of bigger names and institutions over the last 20 years may have also been factored in.

On behalf of the Papaya Team, I would like to share this “power” with friends, artists, colleagues, benefactors, cultural institutions, and our community who supported us through the years. Let's use this to resist extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrests, trumped-up charges, and many other human rights violations happening in our society today and to hold this government accountable for its negligence of its farmers, fishermen, and the poor during natural calamities and in the time of pandemic.

Just yesterday, at around 3:30 a.m., AMIHAN-Cagayan organizer and cultural worker Amanda Echanis — daughter of slain Anakpawis partylist chairperson Randy Echanis — was illegally arrested along with her one-month-old son in Brgy. Carupian, Baggao, Cagayan after being accused of being a high-ranking member of the New People’s Army. She was charged with illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosives. On the same day, around the same time, combined elements of military and police forcefully searched and planted firearms in the house of Anakpawis Cagayan Valley president Isabelo Adviento.

Green Papaya stands with the Concerned Artists of the Philippines against red-tagging and in demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Amanda Echanis.

Let us give POWER back to the people!

Norberto Roldan
December 3, 2020

ArtReview Power 100

ArtReview. “Black Lives Matter Tops 2020 Edition of ArtReview’s Annual Power 100.” (2 Dec 2020)

Marv Recinto. “ ‘The House Is Still Burning’: Censorship, Pandemic and Art in the Philippines.” (22 June 2020)