British Council and Forest Foundation Philippines champion sustainable indigenous crafts through ReSTORYation Exhibit

The British Council, Forest Foundation Philippines, its grantees and partners celebrated the culmination of the Woven Networks programme through the opening ReSTORYation: Weaving Creators, Communities and Connections, an exhibit mounted at the UP CHE Museum in the University of the Philippines Diliman.

Woven Networks Scoping Grants, established in 2021, aim to initiate new collaborations and support projects promoting Indigenous knowledge systems towards sustainable resource management and improved livelihood of craft communities. In 2023, the scoping studies has been since completed, with the exhibit highlighting the grantees’ stories, inviting its audience to see the rich culture of the Philippines’ weaving communities and encouraging us to understand the multitude of human stories behind every craft.

Woven Networks supported grantees who worked across different forest landscapes and islands in the Philippines – such as Isabela, Bukidnon, Samar, Leyte and Palawan – exploring opportunities for makers, understanding their craft and how they source their materials in the forest, and finding ways to support their work sustainably.

The exhibit displayed a variety of works, showcasing the expertise of each of the grantees’ partner communities. Some of them were the bamboo fabrics weaved by Isabela’s Indigenous Enabel Craft and their partner social enterprise Panublix. The bamboo-blended cotton fabrics on display tells the journey of the bamboo, from plant to woven textile. They also collaborated with Merryn Chilcott of BAM clothing who has undertaken pivotal steps in producing bamboo clothing in the UK. Visitors are encouraged to feel the texture of the handwoven textiles and provide feedback through an online form. Each creation speaks of the creativity, ingenuity and resilience of the human spirit and the people’s connection to the land and the world.

Grantee Emmanuelle Andaya worked with the Kalandang Higaonon Weavers in Bukidnon, also called Peace Weavers, where weaves play a significant role in their community as they are traditionally given as peace offerings during tribal and personal conflicts. Their showcase highlights the stories behind their work, from harvesting the resources from forests up to the intricate passing down of their rich tradition throughout generations.

Woven products from Samar and Leyte in collaboration with British-Filipino designer Diana Auria are also on display. Alongside is a short documentary film commemorating the 10th anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda and the stories of resilience of the communities. Chief Empowerment Officer of HerStore Asia Carmen Lopez shares, “We are proud to present to the public the works of our partner communities …These handmade products were crafted by wonder women and men who are not just artisans but are (Typhoon Yolanda) survivors and community leaders…We are delighted that through this exhibit, we were able to share their stories of hope, resilience and creativity.”

For a hands-on weaving experience, LifeCollege Inc. along with UK collaborators and weavers from Aborlan, Palawan, created DIY weaving kits for visitors to create their own handcrafted coasters.

On top of the exhibit, grantees will also roll out educational programmes to support further learning for artists and enthusiasts. HerStore will be hosting a webinar on Conversation on Conservation and Craftsmanship on 8 February 2024 while Nola Andaya will have a walkthrough at CHE Museum Exhibit Hall on 9 February 2024. Further details will be shared on the British Council’s social media pages.

Under the British Council’s Crafting Futures programme, the ReSTORYation Exhibit calls for a shift in perspectives towards one that is circular, collaborative and connected. One that raises our consciousness of our interconnectedness and compels us to co-create a regenerative future.

British Council Head of Arts Mich Dulce reaffirms this and shares, “We believe that by involving everyone in the conversation, we learn from each other and can do the best work that we can. By tapping all the relevant stakeholders: forest dependent craft communities and trusted intermediaries such as designers, social entrepreneurs, leaders and the academe, we can share and expand our expertise and create a wealth of information that can help propel the project and its people further.”

Visit the ReSTORYation Exhibit until 11 March 2024 at the UP CHE Costume Museum, UP Diliman. Museum is open from Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Tours are also available; kindly e-mail UP CHE Costume Museum at for reservations.