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Asian Council for People's Culture (ACPC)

(Quezon City, Philippines)

Seven Rituals of Mother Earth, 1999
The Asian Council for People's Culture (ACPC) was formed in 1985 following a creative workshop in New Delhi, India, that gathered young artists from Asian countries. Since then, the organization has devoted itself to promoting this composite culture through artistic and social activities. The ACPC has organized and produced a large number of shows created by artists from about 15 Asia-Pacific nations and presented in some 50 cities in Asia and Europe.

The ACPC brings together artists from theatre, music and dance, along with community arts workers and popular educators in the Asia-Pacific region. To generate cross-cultural exchanges, the organization sets up workshops for discussion and creation. These workshops, the first of which was held in 1989, have taken place in Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. Al Santos, the organization's director since the beginning, explains:

"The workshops researched, studied and explored traditional and contemporary performing arts, pursuing the dynamics of Asian culture vis-à-vis history, society, development and change. Artists exchanged ideas, compared styles, learned music and instruments, fans and finger movements, acting techniques South and North East of the continent, tai-chi and butoh, tradition and modern. But always with the view of discovering the functions and intentions of Asian arts and culture." (1)

The workshops culminate in a play put together by the participants, who come from regions as far apart geographically and culturally as South Korea, the Philippines, India, Pakistan, New Zealand and Japan. One of these plays, Cry of Asia, is particularly revealing of the ACPC's spirit and goals. Indeed, the first version of this play incorporated a total of 10 languages. This opportunity to communicate about the theatre gives rise in fact to a common language. The meetings are carried out in keeping with the shamanistic tradition. For example, chants precede the performances, and the activities take place in the presence of a shaman who mediates in disputes and performs acts of healing in the event of physical or emotional injuries.

In all its activities, the ACPC provides insight into the situation of Asian cultures and encourages their realities and potential to be fully experienced. Every project is guided by this desire to pass on an experience to artists of future generations:

"We begin to understand the wisdoms embedded in rituals and dances, in the rhythm of drums and strings. It comes to life as we infuse new meanings to ancient symbols in the context of our modern world. It grows larger as we re-enact the rituals of long ago when communities sang and dreamed together and journeyed across boundaries with common stories of heroes and shamans casting away darkness and slaying the evil dragon." (2)

Several of the ACPC's projects stem from a need to gather together and consider the direction that Philippine culture can take as well as the means to preserve its richness. For example, Seven Rituals of Mother Earth (Ang Pitong Ritwal ng Inang Lupa), which the ACPC took on a second national tour in September and October 2000, has aimed to bring together the different cultures of indigenous Philippine tribes and question their place in the age of globalization.

Catherine Mussely © 2001 FDL

(1) Al Santos, "On the road to multi-culturalism: the Cry of Asia experience".

(2) Ibid.