A visual artist, cultural worker, and community healer, Alma "Urduja" Quinto brings art closer to communities affected by catastrophes such as typhoons and other natural disasters. She utilizes embroidery and quilting techniques to bridge the gap between art and the community.
Her impressive range of work tackles issues like the effects of natural disasters on a community, which exemplifies the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Climate Action. Quinto aims not only to share her knowledge but also to empower her collaborators to process their trauma. By helping the community members channel their traumas caused by these natural disasters into art pieces, Quinto is also contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Good Health and Well-Being.
“When you work with a community, you should not behave like, ‘Look, I am the artist, and this is my workshop.' This is how it is (implying that you are in control of everything). Instead, you should assume the role of a facilitator and work with the participants in such a way that they can express themselves freely and are involved in the creative processes," expressed Quinto in an interview with The Earth Manual Project.
Her first art workshop was for the Albay typhoon and volcanic mudslide survivors of November 2006 in Bicol Region where she encouraged participants to create art based on their experiences and their future goals. After this, she let the participants talk to each other as a way to liberate themselves from these traumatic experiences.
"You draw them out and engage them in the workshop processes so they learn skills, understand concepts, and create new meanings. In this way, they can organize similar workshops on their own after you leave the community," she added.
In 2012, after a strong typhoon hit Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines, Quinto connected the survivors of Typhoon Sendong to art. This time, she utilized a different technique, which is a cooking workshop.
The cooking workshop aimed to serve a more nutritious meal since food in evacuation centres is limited and does not have a lot of nutritional value. Additionally, it taught the participants new ways of preparing and serving food in times of disaster. This workshop serves as an avenue for women to share their experiences during the typhoon while they are preparing meals. Communally, these women can validate their shared experiences and make connections with other women.
"Cooking and eating together fosters a sense of unity among all the participants," Quinto reaffirms. When tragedy strikes a community, the first people who help each other are those who live in it. Cooking and sharing a meal reveals the giving nature of humanity, even at times when there is little to share or pass around.
These workshops have two ultimate goals. The first one is to free the survivors from the trauma caused by the disaster, while the second one is to empower the survivors by reminding them they have a community that supports and listens to each other.
Aside from natural disaster-related workshops, Quinto also facilitated a project with sexual abuse survivors called Soft Dreams and Bed Stories. The installation features quilt-like, colourful, plush sculptures reminiscent of children's toys. Showcasing this installation is a way for these young sexual abuse survivors to process and reclaim their childhood.
“I encourage children to discover what is innately good in them through the arts. They want to feel loved because they have been abused. The arts are non-confrontational. It is beautiful, so it is more effective than academic learning. It makes children strong to confront their trauma and build their lives again," Quinto said in an interview.
Overall, Quinto's works highlight the role of art in communities. Not only does it unite people, it also empowers them to live their authentic lives. Importantly, it gives people hope for an attainable future.