Biennial star Cian Dayrit was one of dozens of artists arrested in the Philippines for supporting farmers’ rights

Multimedia artist Cian Dayrit was arrested during a farmers’ rights event last Thursday in the Philippines.

Alongside about 50 artists, Dayrit was detained at a rally that marked the 34th anniversary of the failure of the comprehensive land reform program, which was supposed to redistribute private and public agricultural land in the country of Southeast Asia to help people survive as small independent farmers. Many say there hasn’t been enough work done in the decades since the 1988 initiative was established.

Dayrit was part of a group of artists and cultural workers supporting land, justice and food security, who were there to support farmers participating in a land cultivation demonstration called “Bungkalan”. During these events, peasants claim ownership of their land by planting agricultural products that meet their food needs.

They were arrested while cultivating a two-hectare area which is blocked by a conflict in Barangay Tinang in the city of Concepcion in the province of Tarlac. Several members of a large group of farmers were detained with the artists.

The goal, Dayrit told Artnet News, “was to show the real need for land reform. He added that they had a legal right to be there. “It was not a protest,” said the artist, who was released on Sunday June 12. “We were just there to help.” Dayrit said the police rounded them up and took them to the nearby police station.

The Filipino artist, who recently established himself as one of the stars of the biennial circuit in an Artnet News data report, is known for his cartographic works that take the form of embroidery, textiles or collages of techniques. mixed. Her practice explores imperialism and feudalism through activities such as the extraction of natural resources and the displacement and exploitation of marginalized populations. His works have been included in the Gwangju Biennale 2021 and the Sydney Biennale and Kathmandu Triennale, both this year.

Dayrit described the poor conditions at the police station. “There were so many of us that we couldn’t fit into the small jail cells, so for most of the four days we were heavily guarded in the parking lot outside,” Dayrit said. On the last day, the police chief forced them into cramped cells where people had to take turns sitting down and getting up, the artist said.

While everyone has now been released, they are due to attend a court hearing this Friday, June 17 in the city of Concepcion. “We need lawyers to represent us in smaller groups,” said Dayrit, who has her own lawyer. “Not everyone has a lawyer yet and we are working to ensure everyone is represented.”

The agricultural reform bill in question was signed by the late President Corazon Aquino in 1988 and was to be completed after ten years with the distribution of approximately eight million hectares of land. Its objectives are to provide landowners with equality of income and opportunity, to empower beneficiary owners to have equitable land ownership, to improve agricultural production and productivity, to provide employment to more agricultural workers and ending disputes over land ownership.

Yet the law is considered a failure and after its 34 years, farmers still yearn for their own land.

“At the end of the day, farmers are still left without land, which is one of the biggest contradictions: people who produce food have the least access to land, and land is used for cash crops instead of real food,” Dayrit said.

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