Cajipe’s soulfulness shows in her eloquence in speaking of things she holds dear. She has a deep passion for Filipino history, as well as for what it means to be a Filipina. “I’d like to remember how women in my family like my mother and grandmother, passed on the culture to their children,” she notes. “Mommy taught me all the refinements of daily living. Lola (grandmother), the improviser, taught me that I could always make something out of nothing. Mommy taught me to value quiet moments of reflection. Lola taught me to be frank and expressive. Both taught me the importance of diligence, truth, and honesty.”
Imelda is one of six children of Pedro M. Cajipe, M.D., and Felipa Baisas. Her maternal grandfather was a war veteran who survived the Death March. Her maternal grandmother was a chemistry teacher. Imelda is married to Simplicio Endaya, an economist and project consultant. Together, they have three children, Indira, Trinka and Marco; they are also grandparents to two boys, with another grandchild expected soon. “I am happy that my family has been understanding and supportive of my being an artist,” she says.
Cajipe spent her grade-school and high-school years at the College of the Holy Spirit, where art classes exposed her to art processes and crafts beyond drawing and painting. “The richness of world literature and history made possible my first appreciation of Dali’s Persistence of Memory and Van Gogh’s Starry Night,” she adds. “Our school chapel was a fine example of art deco and had beautiful modern paintings of Stations of the Cross.” This early exposure to the arts spurred her to enroll at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Fine Arts.
While her artistic career developed deliberately through the years, art remains a personal meditation. “An artist’s life is made whole by the practice of his/her craft,” she articulates. “Yet my personal search must be synthesized with a collective consciousness of a people’s history largely forgotten by the globalized world.”
She derives creative inspiration from basic materials in the home. “My grandmother’s shawl, my mother’s crochet, my beaded slippers…I love mementoes handed down to me, such as sashes, alampay (shoulder-kerchief) , and tapis (wraparound) When they wear out, I plaster them onto my canvas,” she remarks. “Recycling through art-making has taught me to memorialize mothers and women heroes.”
Cajipe was a historical and cultural researcher in the mid-‘70s, which proved to be a turning point in her career. “When I produced my print series on ancestors from 1976 to 1979, it defined the direction I was to take in my artistic development,” she elaborates.
Early in her career, she focused on the search for her Filipino roots and identity, doing etchings and serigraphs. She then moved on to creating works depicting social problems and root causes in order to awaken the viewer towards positive change. “I have worked on the following intersecting themes: nationhood, women empowerment, human rights, Filipino diaspora, environment and appropriate technology vis-à-vis globalization,” she says.
Some of her favorites works include:
Saan Ka Nanggaling, Saan Ka Darating (1979): a precursor to Imelda’s works that reflect a self-consciousness as a woman and a Filipina.
Pasyong Bayan (1983): Imelda’s personal The Agony and the Ecstasy, reflecting rage against Martial Law and the massive human rights violations committed under the Marcos regime.
Panimula (2014): A work on the origins and emergence of the archipelago, earth life and the first man and woman from forces that resemble recent storm surges, earthquakes and devastation.
“After several canvases of social commentaries and critical protests in my youth, I am focusing my mature years in depicting images of affirmation, hope, triumphs and empowerment. Being a grandmother now, I envision a more livable world where the young can derive inspiration and hope from the lives of otherwise forgotten Philippine heroes,” she explains.
Aside from being an artist, Imelda is a writer and designer of books, such as Manuel Rodriguez Sr.: Into the Threshold, Nelfa Querubin: A Passion for Clay, and Kasaysayan ng Ating Bayan/ Ang Pilipinas Noon at Ngayon. She is also a curator, her most recent commission being “Pagtitipon, A Gathering,” an exhibition of Philippine art in Vancouver in Canada.
Imelda Cajipe Endaya sees living as a calling consisting of several roles. For her it is about being a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, citizen and artist. She is joyful on every level. “I have learned to live cheerfully and without heartaches, making me healthier,” she expresses. “I continue to dream of doing more and make paintings better than the previous once I have finished.”
Serina Aidasani divides her time between New York and Chicago. She enjoys deep conversations, mocha lattes and tries to appreciate little joys of the everyday.
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