The Sarimanok and the Minhwa Workshop

Last month I had the honor of joining a Minhwa Workshop sponsored by the Korean Cultural Center of the Philippines (KCCP) in partnership with the National Museum of the Philippines. Minhwa is a traditional Korean art of painting. I first learned about it in 2018 and was able to participate in a class for a semester, also at the KCCP. Back then, the work that I completed for several weeks was put up by KCCP in an exhibit. It was such a calming and fulfilling experience painting Minhwa, so I’ve always been on the lookout ever since for any upcoming classes or events.

At first I thought I missed the chance because I only saw the post in KCCP’s facebook page a couple of days after they published that they were opening slots for the workshop, and only the first 20 people who sign up would be enlisted. Without high hopes I filled out the form, and true enough received a response saying the list had already been completed, and in case there are cancellations I would be notified by email. Consoling myself with the thought that at least I tried, and the days of February flew by. Until a day before the event I got an email asking if I was still intested to attend, which, naturally I responded with a yes.

The next day, Saturday, D drove me to the National Museum of Anthropology in Manila which was located within the same complex as the National Museum of Fine Arts – my top of mind Philippine museum to go to. It was my first time to go to the National Museum of Anthropology and I made a mental note to go back for a proper visit with D, as I only had a few minutes til the event started at 1pm to be able to check out the galleries.

Within the National Museum complex

Before the workshop, the group was ushered to one of the galleries where the Philippine sarimanok was displayed. The sarimanok is a Maranao art of a rooster with bright and colorful feathers. In its talons or its beak is a fish. Maranaos are from Lanao del Sur in Mindanao. Sarimanok symbolizes good fortune and wealth.

The Sarimanok

After our short guided tour, we headed back to our workshop venue where the artist, Teacher Yoon, gave us an introduction of the Minhwa and how it played a big part of the Korean culture. In Korean, min is ‘commoner’, and hwa is ‘painting’. So Minhwa is folk painting painted by the commoners. During the Joseon period (1392-1910), the different classes in society prevailed. On top was the King, followed by the Moon in sa dae bu. From what I understood, this class consists of noble families or government employees. Next was the Commoner, and the last class was the Slave. At that time, people can move from one class downward (like from Commoner to Slave), however no one can move up.

After the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592, and the Manchu war in 1636, the class society started to collapse. Slaves were allowed to pay to become Commoners. In the late Joseon dynasty, Commoners painted various paintings of tigers, kois, peonies, cows, pine trees, etc. Minhwa paintings depict usual objects that symbolize something. For example, a tiger symbolizes protection, and a peony symbolizes wealth. The design of the painting is sometimes funny-looking because they are painted by people who are not professional painters. The materials used to paint Minhwa are from nature, like the Hanji (Korean paper) which is made from the mulberry tree.

The six colors I worked with during the Minhwa workshop

Finally, we started to color the pre-made painting that Teacher Yoon prepared for us participants. We were given an hour and a half to color. Admittedly I was rusty at first and was so conscious if I was doing it right. Twenty minutes in I got into the groove and was so focused on my coloring that I didn’t notice the time.

That sums up my overdue reunion with Minhwa. I’m glad I had the chance to do this again after five years. It was exactly the meditation I had been missing and should be doing more of.

By MrsWayfarer

Living Free and Making a Difference


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