This Powerful Art Exhibit Condemns the ‘Rape’ of the West Philippine Sea

Nikki Luna’s Rape of Seas exhibit in Vienna, Austria will run until February 29.
IMAGE Nikki Luna

In her exhibit Rape of Seas, critically-acclaimed Filipino artist Nikki Luna makes a statement championing Philippine sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea. And with the exhibit running at unttld contemporary in Vienna, Austria, Luna is addressing her statement to the world.

Condemning China’s efforts to creep into Philippine maritime territory, Rape of Seas emphasizes the parallels between the “rape” of the West Philippine sea and the current administration’s violent rap sheet against women.

Rape of Seas exhibit at unttled contemporary art gallery in Vienna, Austria

Photo by Nikki Luna.

Misogyny, patriarchy, and violence against women find their place alongside illegal fishing in Philippine waters, poaching marine animals to near extinction, and the seizure of islands in our territory. As art mirrors reality, the exhibit speaks the tragic truth of these actions to the people in power who should be held accountable.

The five pieces of art are echoes of the destruction of our sea and the persecution of our people. A series of replicated white clams are purposely sized the same as a vagina. Gold plates in the shape of the shoal are engraved with powerful words from women. Twin white flags represent the wars waged against women and the people. And the last piece, a dress, perfectly captures the impact of the illegal activity in our waters on the very people reliant on the sea: the fishermen.


'Scars on the Reef' 
Fifty pieces of miniaturized giant clams, made from 3D scans of actual giant clams from Chinese poachers in the West Philippine Sea, are sized the same as a vagina.

Photo by Nikki Luna.

Photo by Nikki Luna.

'You Don’t Own Us'
An 18-carat gold sheet is cut into the shape of Panacot Shoal (a former name for Scarborough Shoal) based on a map dated 1748 that was published in Vienna. The gold is engraved with 'words from women whose consent was disregarded, but they could very well be protests against the administration.'

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Photo by Nikki Luna.

'Waging A Peoples War'
A white flag is embroidered with the Spratly Islands along with a quote from the president: “If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…”

Photo by Nikki Luna.

Photo by Nikki Luna.

'Waging A Women’s War'
A white flag is detailed with a quote from the president commenting on China and the West Philippine Sea: “I’m sorry, but that’s how it is.”

Photo by Nikki Luna.

A dress is made from a fishing net from fishermen who traveled from Zambales to Scarborough Shoal with pieces of fabric from the fishermen’s wives.

Photo by Nikki Luna.

As women are the mothers of nations, the West Philippine Sea is the entity that feeds the nation. Yet vulgar words and turned backs are permitting the illegal poisoning of our waters. The exhibit is a powerful message to the world, and the message here is clear: “This sea is our sea.”

Luna’s Rape of Seas exhibit will run until February 29 in Vienna, Austria.

A staunch supporter of women’s rights and gender equality, Luna is a recipient of the Thirteen Artists Awards of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the UK Chevening Award 2018, as well as a grantee of the New York Asian Cultural Council. Her work has been exhibited at the Cairo Biennale, Singapore Biennale, Aichi Japan Triennal, Beijing Biennale, and continues to exhibit her art around the world.

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Anri Ichimura
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