The Murals of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Murals
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"Women for Peace and Environment"
Bert Monterona's Mural for Mural Fest 2K7.

Location: E side bet. Bannatyne & William; North Face (high)

Occupant: Confederation Building

District: City Centre

Neighbourhood: Exchange District

Artist(s): Bert Monterona

Year: 2007

Sponsors: Mural Fest 2K7, Graffiti Art Programming

Painters: Nelson Catcheway, Steve Castel, Teddy Head, Aaron Dumas, Eugene Boittieux, Julian Owen.


In February of 2007, Bert Monterona submitted the following synopsis in support of his "Women For Peace And Environment" semi-finalist stage submission to the Mural Fest 2K7 competition.

"Peace and environmental issues are everybody's concern. When there is peace there is unity and understanding among communities of diverse culture, faith, race and colours. This work of art makes a call for all women and men of good will to take responsibility for sustaining life, environmental protection, preventing war and building a culture of peace."

"The environmental protection campaign was a long-time movement by environmentalists and activists who love to live on this planet, but until now the majority of people in the world are still ignoring the destruction created by a few who just look after their personal satisfaction and interests. We are now living in a time of global transition. Our planet is at risk and global warming is a serious issue in our time and it must be everybody's concern, because symptoms of destruction are now happening in different parts of the world. It is a time to act now and artists should do something about it. Creating this work is a move to save the earth."

"Women's movement for peace could be a natural force for peace because they believe in a moral force instead of physical force: through love and nurturing they can help us to learn how to prevent war in order to sustain life and save our civilization. I used women as a main elements of my composition in projecting issues of peace and environment because I believe that women's unique qualities of birthing, nurturing, responsibility, commitment and sensitivity towards human needs are the most effective values for healing the exploited earth and human race."

"This artwork visualizes women in action for a more balanced and equitable value paradigm. It shows women finding their own independent identities by developing a more holistic view of the world, and redefines the relationships between men and women in terms of social, political, economic and spiritual equality."

"The composition is divided into two major images: the image of women in neutral situations but projecting encouragement for the viewer to act and do something about the real situation in a community, and a society where women are treated as sex objects, kept powerless, exploited and maltreated. The whole composition suggests awareness for equality and gender sensitivity to make the world united to battle environmental destruction and war issues confronting everyone today."

Bert Monterona: "The painting provokes thoughts and initiates public discussions as it projects issues on peace, environment and gender equality and sensitivity. The artwork may carry our hopes for a more just and humane future to live in peace and dignity, but still the mural is artistically beautiful and world add extra vibrancy and dynamism to Winnipeg's urban landscape."

During Mural Fest 2K7, Bert provided me with these further comments. Please note that English is a second language for Bert:

Bert Monterona: "Historically, Mural painting is a propaganda art, because it deals with issues that affect the community and society. My experience with Mural painting is largely political- I started doing them in 1984 in the Philippines when I was still in university. We are inspired by the great Mexican Muralists during the revolution. In 1984 there was Martial Law in the Philippines. There was killing, salvaging and torture. We would make the Murals overnight and then during the day the people would use them for mass actions. There were strong protests in all sectors until the dictator president was ousted in 1986. Most of the political Muralists after that just did gallery friendly artwork- I call that cutism art, a cute art for art collectors. In my case I continue doing art about the issues. I shifted away from political to environmental issues."

"My island is the second largest on the Philippines and it is populated by Muslims and Christians. There was much prejudice and discrimination between the two groups. When I was still a kid, when my municipality was being attacked I had to bring ammunition to those fighting with guns. Bullets were flying. That's why I became a peace activist. I always want to work for peace building because I witnessed how the community and humanity was destroyed because of war. In 1999 I designed a peace building and visual arts course and we give workshops for peace builders."

"When I was still a kid I experienced that our forests are really rich with natural resources. I belong to a first nations tribe where the forests for us are our hospital and our market. We can get our medicine and our food from the forest. When I went back to the area in University, you now cannot see a single tree. The environment is not just a local issue but a global one with global warming. I took a bus trip from Prince Rupert to Vancouver and I witnessed 23 hours of dead forest. This message is on television and in the newspapers. If we don't act now the planet may become uninhabitable."

"I am not an artist with a solution, but I just want to do my part. I believe that art has a big role in information and education. This Mural is about peace building and the environment. I am using women as major elements in my composition. Women are a neutral force, they are the caregivers of the present generation and generations to come. I also believe in female equality. I've worked with women activists and I've witnessed the macho behaviours by men."

"I'm also using lines that have been inspired by my tribe; I'm not just influenced by education in art and contemporary Philippine artists. I use tribal art in a contemporary painting. So I always use in my composition symbols of water flow, the mountain ridges, symbols of different animals. This also helps me to break out of the system of speech and release what I think in an abstract nonverbal way."

"I used really vivid colours or primary colours here because we get our colours from plant juice, from the seeds, roots, earth. That's part of our tribal art. I am trying to use more blue for the psychological message of peace. But my sunrise and my sunset colours are still coming up!"

A brief walkthrough of the Mural: "In the upper left corner, I visualized the destruction of war, and next to the destroyed buildings are bomber planes. There is no gain in war. Next to the bomber planes you can see the women releasing the birds (doves) for peace, and they are going through the bomber planes, which is one of the peace building concepts."

"On the left, I am showing the women as weak, not equal, sex objects. The faces are sad, but at the same time there is awareness and desire to change their plight. The eyes are striking. The eyes are sad. The mouth is sad. One woman is covering herself up from her own nudity. They realize the situation."

"At the centre bottom you see the universal symbol for women (circle and cross at bottom of it). This realization is now a global movement for change for equality. The scales above the circle signify this balance and also that there is no peace and equality without justice. You can see at the very bottom a planted seed is sprouting and wrapping around the women's symbol. The women inside the circle are depicted in a human chain standing for unity. The women are inside the globe and the women symbol is also serving as a kind of magnifying glass, focusing attention on it."

"At the very bottom left you see the hacked denuded forest and bare earth, the remains of the destroyed environment. In my country there's no more trees. Teddy, one of the artists I was mentoring, put in native imagery in this brown space of bare earth. You can see the tribal designs that he made. On the right side, you see women trying to rehabilitate the destroyed earth by planting new seeds. The woman at the top right is in ritualistic prayer with her arms spread. She is praying to save our environment. The sun at top centre symbolizes hope."

Concluding remarks: "It's nice that public art involves the community. I love this city with all the Murals around. It makes all the energy alive. The reality all too often is that visual arts aren't given a lot of focus in schools. Art is always optional; if there's a problem with a budget art is the first thing to get cut. I think that artist talks and gatherings such as Mural Fest can bring people closer to themselves and to the Mural so we can digest the contents and touch the hearts and minds of the people."

About Bert Monterona: Bert is a Filipino visual artist from Mindanao, Philippines. He is an Artist in Residence of the Vancouver Film School in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Bert is a complete artist an educator and cultural worker doing designing, illustrations, painting, murals, sculpture, installations, and set and props for stage performances and TV shows. Internationally and nationally acclaimed, he is a recipient of the Australia Council for the Arts Grants; Asian Artists Awards of Vermont Studio Centre, U.S.A.; Philip Morris Group of Companies ASEAN Art Awards; GSIS Museum Artist of the Month and Art Association of the Philippines Best Entry Award.

Bert was the Regional Coordinator of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts of the Republic of the Philippines from 1996-2001 and the founder and program director of the Mindanao Alternative Centre for Visual Arts, Inc. As an artist-educator he has organized and facilitated art workshops and lecture presentations in schools and communities around the world, for skills development, art-as-therapy and peacebuilding. Bert also does commissioned works on mural for public and business establishments. He is known for his bamboo-stick painting and tapestry works and exhibited in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia, U.S.A., Canada and Philippines. Monterona's art elevates social realities to aesthetic heights. Visit Bert Monterona's website at