By ALDWIN QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY —” Artus is physically gone, but his artworks lives here forever,” these words were written on the freedom wall by someone who said he traveled from Natonin, Mountain Province just to view the artworks of Artus Talastas which were on exhibit: “DeKalibre” at the Alumni Central lobby of the University of the Philippines Baguio from July 31 to August 9.
Artus Talastas is a one of a kind visual artist, a singer, song writer and a cultural performer, actor. He was one of the pioneers of the Dap-ayan ti Kultura ti Kordilyera (Center for Culture in the Cordillera or DKK), a socially active cultural organization that works on the rich culture and history of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera region to organize among the wider indigenous peoples communities in the defense of land, life, resources and self-determination. Through his talent and skills, he worked with other activists to carry forward the people’s struggles against oppression and exploitation.
His devotion to his work with the basic sectors of society strengthened his his belief that armed struggle is inevitable in changing a society, he joined the revolutionary New People,s Army (NPA) in 2000. Courageously he took on the hardship and dangers of living in the mountains. Still, Artus always found time to draw sketches and portraits not only of his comrades but the people in the communities they visited. He carried the nom de guerre, “Ka Libre”.
There in the mountains, he composed songs and sang of hard struggle and freedom that the people picked up and sung over and over. He created crafts and artistic tools and souvenirs that many people even those who do not know him personally or have met him admire and praise.
On June 2, Artus was fatally shot in the back while trying to rescue one of his comrades who was severely wounded. The hands that created the arts and the voice who sang the songs was silenced but not for long. For like in the forest he lived and worked in, “a tree falls and a tree grows, and the forest lives forever.”
Displayed in the exhibit are the drawings and paintings of Artus from his elementary school years and through his life as “Ka Libre”. The countless visitors to the exhibit saw the drawings of Artus when he was grade three that amazed them because of the detailed and consistent strokes and shading styles employed on his artworks.
During the closing program of the exhibit on August 9, members of the DKK and Artus’ younger brother Sixto read the comments and feedback by the people who viewed the exhibit. Many comments that can be summarized in a few words, that they admired the drawings not only because they are artistically amazing but because they talked about the people, their history, struggles and aspiration for a free world.
According to Renalyn Tubao of the DKK secretariat, the arts and works of Artus or “Ka Libre” should not just remain in the eyes of the people especially among the cultural artists of today but must serve as a challenge to continue making arts not only for art’s sake. She said art should be juiced out from the experiences, struggles and true interests of the toiling masses and be used to serve them. Northern Dispatch