This month, our artist feature is an incredibly diversely talented creator who has just published their latest book: Home is in the Body: 2SLGBTQIA+ Filipinx Femme, North of the 49th Parallel which is available in local book stores (Shelf Life Books and The Next Page), as well as homeisinthebody.ca through ANAK Publishing. This book gathers "40 radical, brilliant FilipinX Femme" people, adding to the ever-growing sources of art0 for Filipina/x/o - Canadian history.
jaqs gallos aquines is an anti-racism facilitator and community organizer. Currently a member of the Cultural Instigators in Mohkinstsis, funded by the Calgary Arts Development, jaqs collaborates with 9 activist/artists from Mohkinstsis to explore what an anti-racist future could look like.
Much of their work—including their podcast the Unlearning Channel, edited anthology Home is in the Body, and a sci-fi electro soul/r&b musical set in an anti-racist alternate timeline—centres race, culture, identity, and diaspora in pursuit of justice, liberation and joy.
What made you decide to pursue art?
It saved my life. Music, in particular saved my life. It brought my voice back.
I got into law school in the final year of my undergrad in Montreal. I was already writing my own music and doing theatre. In my final semester I got the role of Columbia in Rocky Horror and the Acid Queen in the Who’s Tommy and did not have an interest in grad school. I moved to LA to do music and film. I wanted to have a band. I fell into documentary films because of the music. I began working with a CNN producer who brought me onto her first feature documentary.
For photography I wanted to see more queer FilipinX femme representation from a North of the 49th parallel perspective. For music, i always wrote songs to women. For film, i was honoured to direct a short written by Suitaakii Black and Bernadette Lumugdang about an Indigenous and FilipinX lesbian couple who wanted to have a baby.
I’m now writing a comedy about diversity consulting.
Who or what have been your biggest inspirations so far to date though your creative journey?
For this book - Terrance Nance, Park Chan-wook - Nayyirah Waheed - the space, colour palates. Composition.
To be honest, my work with the Anti-Racist Organizational Change project through CommunityWise, led by Thulasy Lettner changed my life and how I see relationality between art, culture, community organizing, policy change. It shaped much of how Home is in the Body was put together. I also learned a great deal from my work with Voices: the Two-Spirit LGBTQIA+ Coalition of People of colour. I was interested in hearing from a group that is all over the arts but rarely centred.
What part of your book are you most excited about?
Taking the photos/recording the portrait interviews during the Pinay Power II conference was one of my favourite parts of making this book. It gave me an opportunity to connect with several queer, radical activists, artists, scholars, writers who want to see something different in our filipinx communities -- on how to create accountable inclusive space where we can show up and be our best selves. I carry those conversations with me, including the conversations that were very vulnerable. There’s a deep amount of shame, of internalized homophobia within our community due to religion, due to colonization that made some of those conversations very hard. To imagine what Queering Filipinx Space looked like was a challenge as many of us had never been in it until we were IN it at PPII. I am so thankful to each and every person who shared their vulnerability with me, their experiences, their stories.
Working with ANAK Publishing was a truly wonderful, supportive experience. It couldn’t have been done without Daisydee Bautista, Johsa Manzanilla and Darlyne Bautista.
Do you have any rituals, “must haves”, or favourite places you go to for when you work?
I need to meditate every day. I often need to take walks and touch a tree. That’s when inspiration comes or a block gets cleared /sorted out. I usually turn off my phone and go into an analog or offline space, as much as I can when trying to work things out. I like the feeling of privacy when i’m writing.
Do you have any local favourite artists that you love? Who are they, and why?
Jae sterling - visual artist and musician whose work is brave, pushing beyond most of the work here. It’s personal and vulnerable but also not apologetic.
Marigold Santos - a FilipinX visual artist who incorporates our mythology into her paintings, sculptures. To see the folklore and mythology of my own people existing in careful, thoughtful contemporary interpretations makes me feel like I exist. It’s fabulous to see, as when we don’t have that representation its impact can be easily underestimated by those who are accustomed to seeing their experience constantly validated. This is something that Elaine Castillo, writer of America is Not in the Heart, writes about in the Foreward to Carlos Bulosan’s “America is in the Heart.”
asmaa al-issa - a mixed media/fabrics artist born in Baghdad, Iraq. It is the meditative, intimate sharing of her process built around the lines on her palms, palm trees, rivers intersecting and how she interrogates that through an anti-imperialist lens. If i ever get to doing a podcast about process she’d be one artist I’d want to interview.
@Rezinbabe - i’m always wearing her earrings and necklaces, if i’m not wearing @lalahanflow from the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations (Vancouver). Again, julay’s work is so thoughtful, sacred. Ceremonial. They’re also a tattoo artist integrating healing into the process of each piece.
What is your all time favourite musical artist?
Erykah Badu. She is an experience. Her music is a mood. A mood changer. She can literally change the temperature with her vibe when i listen to her music. That is a goal. To offer space. Atmosphere.
Her artistry is comprehensive in how she shows up. What she presents. In an interview she said that Baduizm is meant to get you high. To bring you up and that’s exactly what happens when i listen to her. I am teleported.
What is your favourite subject to photograph?
Faces. People. It’s not just the final product that i look for but the experience. I do love people. Getting to know them through their portrait one learns so much.
How has COVID affected your art? Have you done anything creative during this time that you otherwise wouldn’t have done?
Self-care. I’ve been able to go deeper into sorting out my shit so i can finally write something outside of my own personal grapplings. I stopped writing music as i was writing about women. Love. sex. And I’ve come to a place where it’s ok to write about these topics, but from a healed space.
I want to be plugged into my joy. My truth and i had to get out of the way to find that.
Aside from the book and chipping away at this musical I’m not going to shame myself for not being productive during this time. I’ve mostly focused on the work bahaghari could offer in disrupting the isolation of this pandemic. Playing with sound, with music, exploring what i can do entirely on my own has been the best option as i don’t currently have a band. I’ve been jamming with a drummer/guitar student friend.
If you could pick just ONE food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Fish tacos. Pretty gay, yes.
What is your coffee order?
Double mocha with oat milk. Or coconut milk/soy.
Do you make coffee at home? IF so, how?
Either a moka espresso. Straight.
Or French press with a dash of turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, a little honey, and soy milk for coffee. My drummer friend, Linda Kee, showed that to me.
Do you have any exciting projects coming up? If so, can you tell us about them?
I’m working on an electro soul/r&b sci-fi musical set in an anti-racist future. The fun part is building that possibility.
Thanks for being honest and giving us thoughtful and such vulnerable answers. And for taking so much time for us! Where can we find you and your work?