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Eestikeelsed artiklid



Mark Young

August Künnapu

Maija Rudovska

Vilen Künnapu

Peteris Ratas

Harry Pye

Mehis Heinsaar

Lauri Sommer


IN Muntinlupa Prison

In October and November last year I was artist-in-residence in the Philippines. The visit was organised within the agreement between Estonia and the Philippines on cultural and educational co-operation. The program was interesting and intense. I was able to meet artists from different generations and visit their studios in Angono ‘art town’, etc. I attended exhibition openings and viewed local art galleries, and opened the exhibition of my own paintings and drawings in the Gallery of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts in the capital city Manila. I also took part in the Cinemanila International Film Festival.

Inmates singing American soul.
Photos: August Künnapu, Tim Kolk


One of the most memorable events in the cultural program, however, was the self-portrait workshop in Muntinlupa Prison near Manila. Tim Kolk, my friend from Tartu, a world traveller and a former lawyer-linguist, also took part in that. The prison looked like a real city inside a city. While in Estonia there are approximately 500 inmates in one prison, in Muntinlupa there were 20,000 detainees – among them petty thieves, medium-security inmates and prisoners with life sentences. We were offered a thorough guided tour in the prison. We saw carpenters’ workshops, art classes, the school and the church, as well as the inmates’ zone of living that looked like dollhouses. Unlike in Tallinn Prison, for example, on the streets of the Muntinlupa Prison there was no misleading loud music played through megaphones and the prisoners were able to freely talk to each other. The general impression was positive. There are practically no suicides in there.

Upon our arrival in Muntinlupa in the morning, we were directed to a big hall, where prisoners gave us a versatile concert. They expressively sang American* soul songs from the 1960s-70s and performed etudes of modern dance. In his hearty and sincere performance the supervisor of the inmates personified Frank Sinatra.

Later we were invited to a room next to the hall, where there was a table loaded with local delicacies and Orangeade lemonade.

There were approximately 15 medium-security prisoners taking part in the workshop, as well as Mikee, the young daughter of the Muntinlupa Prison’s social worker. First, we were sitting in a circle, to activate our energies. I showed participants the bilingual poetry book by Andrus Elbing, an inmate in Tallinn Prison, and also issues of the Epifanio newspaper and my own overview catalogue. Then I announced the task – to look inside yourself and portrait your soul. What further complicated the drawing of self-portraits was that the inmates were not allowed to use neither a mirror nor photographs of themselves. But they had intuition, the will to work, pencils and crayons (the latter ones were preferred to acrylics). Everyone did their best to depict themselves as truthfully and sincerely as they could. We photographed the entire work process, as well as the exotically colourful final results with their authors. The best examples are also reproduced on the pages of Epifanio. There was a positive and light atmosphere at the end of the workshop. The inmates started a band rehearsal in the same room and the prison administration began to sing cheerfully.

Single cell

The inmates’ zone of living on two floors.
In the middle: Tim Kolk and
“Rexy” Morales, directress of the prison

In the evening when we were heading back to the capital city with the driver and our accompanists, “Rexy” Morales, the friendly directress of the prison, called us back and handed us orange T-shirts with black slogans saying “Inmate Maximum” and “Bureau of Corrections” – the ones worn by prisoners with life sentences –, and suggested: “Better don’t wear it here in the Philippines!” To this day, I have that T-shirt in an honourable place at home, together with another souvenir – the three-master ship model made by the prisoners, set on a wooden trailer, placed in a glass bottle.

My gratitude to Estonian Ministry of Culture and National Commission for Culture and the Arts in the Republic of Philippines.

* For most of the previous century the Philippines were under the power of the United States, and that can be perceived on every step in their culture too.

August Künnapu


Vangid pesu pesemas


August Künnapu getting the souvenir

Impressions of the workshop

There was a slogan “University of Perpetual Help System Dalta” hanging on the wall, which confused me from the beginning. Against that background, Künnapu the artist explained to the inmates that the goal was to depict your nature on the self-portrait. There was a hustle, when crayons and paper were handed out. For some reason, someone asked me what exactly was meant by that goal. I replied that the nature of a person might be expressed in some specific facial feature, for example – a nose curve, in any case in the eyes, possibly also in eyebrows. After a while Künnapu the artist advised the inmates from the other side of the room not to trouble themselves too much with drawing their nose, for instance. By the nature we should still understand what remains invisible to the eye – a soul. After another while Künnapu explained to an inmate José (let’s just call him like this today), that his self-image was too beautiful and that he should still add his portrait that scar snaking over his cheek, since it was very characteristic. Later, when I came to think about it, I realised that José, the beautiful, clear and symmetrical creature on the paper, was precisely the depiction of his true nature.

Tim Kolk