National Artist Abdulmari Asia Imao died early this morning.
Through his works, the indigenous ukkil, sarimanok and naga motifs have been popularized and instilled in the consciousness of the Filipino nation and other peoples as original Filipino creations.
He studied art at the College of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines where National Artists Guillermo Tolentino and Napoleon Abueva were among his mentors.
He also did advanced studies in sculpture and ceramics as Fellow at the Rhode Island School of Design, 1961-1962 and in brass-casting and photography as a Faculty Scholar at the Columbia University in New York City, 1962-1963. Imao also had the distinction of being the first Asian recipient of the New York Museum of Modern Art Grant to Europe and Scandinavia in 1963.
Among his major works are the Industry Brass Mural, Philippine National Bank, San Fernando, La Union; Mural Relief on Filmmaking, Manila City Hall; Industrial Mural, Central Bank of the Philippines, San Fernando, La Union; and Sulu Warriors (statues of Panglima Unaid and Captain Abdurahim Imao), Sulu Provincial Capitol.
Many of his works are on display abroad as well.
Imao is credited with revitalizing the art of brass casting not just in the Philippines but other asian countries as well: Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia. He is recognized internationally as a brass-casting consultant of the UNDP and ILO. In the country, he assisted not only Maranao and Taosug brass workers but other groups as well, including the T’boli of southeastern Mindanao and the Cordillera groups of northern Luzon.
An article on Imao on www.muslimmindanao.ph states: “(Imao) has helped indigenous peoples develop their art by introducing techniques and promote efficiency and economy in the use of indigenous materials in all aspects of the brass-making process. He has assisted these groups build inexpensive foundry systems made of materials from the immediate environment and thus gave greater viability to brassware both as a cultural and artistic heritage and as a livelihood activity.”
The article further quotes Dr. Alice Guillermo, U.P. professor and art critic. “If the art of brass casting has regained its vitality in the Philippines and Asia, it can be said without the least hesitation that this is owed to the untiring efforts of Abdulmari Asia Imao as a devoted teacher to many cultural groups.”