Queering Folklore: Reading Diwata as Archipelagic Mythologizing of Desire and (Be)Longing

Ferdinand Lopez, University of Toronto


Archipelagic Imagination and Decolonial Aesthetics: Enduring Imperial Duress, Colonial Detritus, and Fantasies of National (Be)Longing


As divine beings, these old deities are literally
entangled with stars and oceans, heavens and earths
not to mention forms belonging to the allegedly
“opposite sex” and other possible embodiments.

– Zairong Xiang, Queer Ancient Ways: A Decolonial Exploration

Since a myth is a type of speech, everything can be
a myth, provided it is conveyed by a discourse.

– Roland Barthes, Mythologies

Diwata: Queering Precolonial Philippine Mythology is an online photography exhibit of young queer and trans folx from Mindanao: Renz Botero, Natu Xantino, and Ram Botero. This visual art display is a part of the month-long Southeast Asian Queer Culture Festival held last February 13 until March 13 2021 on the theme, “Be/longing.” The artists-mythmakers and curators reinterpret figures from pre-colonial Philippine history, and folklore to explore the various instantiations of queer (be)longings and transformations. While the general reception of the virtual exhibit remains positive, critics interrogate the limits of cultural appropriation, the extent of artistic license, the slippages in conceptual translation, and the lack of faithfulness to the archival sources informing the 16-piece visual art collection.

What I propose to do in this paper is to deploy the notion of “strange temporalities of use” conceptualized by Sarah Ahmed, in order to map the messy entanglements of queer desire, and (be)longing exemplified in Diwata’s mythopoetic ekphrasis. I use archipelagic elsewhereness (extending Rabasa and Xian) to strategically read the out-of-use, wild, strange, queer, and startling transformations of beings in Diwata.

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CCSEAS Conference 2021 |